Longietti/Nelson bill to help rehab patients heads to governor’s desk

Would mandate emergency contact notification when patient leaves against advice

HARRISBURG, June 26 – A bill headed to the governor’s desk would give families of drug rehabilitation patients a chance at lifesaving intervention when those patients check themselves out against medical advice, state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, announced.

House Bill 944, which Longietti introduced with state Rep. Eric Nelson, R-Westmoreland, would require inpatient rehabilitation facilities to notify a patient’s designated emergency contact – a measure considered best practice but not currently mandated under state law – when the patient leaves addiction treatment against the provider’s advice.

“This legislation offers a chance for family members to learn of a loved one’s decision – often impulsive and made under pressure or impaired judgment – to leave treatment and return to the lure of addictive drugs,” Longietti said. “By requiring timely notification of the emergency contact, we are giving family members the chance they deserve, when seconds count, to try to get their loved one to safety. There are no guarantees, but by mandating notification, we are at least opening a window of opportunity.”

In April, the House unanimously passed a version of the bill, which was then amended in the state Senate. The amended version clarifies that the provider meets it obligation under the proposed law by making at least one attempt to notify the emergency contact using the method designated by the patient.

On Friday, the House concurred in the amendments and unanimously passed the amended version of the bill, which now heads to the governor’s desk.

Longietti said the bill provides exceptions for cases when the patient revoked consent to notify the emergency contact or when the facility knew or had reason to know of allegations of domestic violence by the emergency contact.

The bill is also known as Heather’s Law, after a woman who suffered a fatal overdose within 12 hours of checking herself out of an addiction recovery facility and going to her drug dealer’s house.