Local Lawmaker Seeks to Expand 2016 Opioid Law

5th Barnstable State Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich)

HYANNIS – With just two days left in the legislative session, lawmakers are working to address the opioid crisis.

The House of Representatives is seeking to expand the state’s comprehensive 2016 opioid law by increasing treatment options for individuals suffering from addiction, swelling prevention efforts and looking into long-term solutions.

Sandwich State Representative Randy Hunt says the legislation would put teeth behind the crisis including prescribing practices.

“We’ve been doing a pretty good job and I think we lead the nation in reduction of opioid prescriptions,” Hunt said. “What this will do is further that by requiring that any kind of opiate drug that gets prescribed has to be prescribed by electronic prescription.”

Hunt said this is something legislators have been looking at for a long time to help stop the forging of prescriptions.

The legislation also seeks to make sure pharmaceutical companies look into the formulary for substitute medications that are not as addictive as opiates.

Another goal of the bill is to allow pharmacies to dispense naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, without a prescription.

Hunt said the use of naloxone seems to be making a difference in saving lives. Opioid overdose deaths decreased in 2017 from 2016 after increasing for several years.

According to the Department of Public Health, there were only 379 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2000. That number was 2,016 last year.

In the first three months of 2018, the DPH has confirmed 201 overdose deaths in Massachusetts, but the department estimates there will be an additional 240 to 300 deaths once all cases are finalized by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

“It’s really hard to measure what the progress is,” Hunt said.

Allow naloxone has saved many lives, more powerful synthetic opioids are causing more deaths.

“Fentanyl, which has gained a lot of popularity, is part of the substance that has killed 80 percent of the people who died of opioid overdoses in 2017,” Hunt said.

An even more power opioid, Carfentanil, which is used to sedate large animals like elephants and rhinoceroses, is pushing to result in even more overdose deaths.

The legislation also takes steps to ensure there are qualified treatment facilities available for individuals with addiction issues. It enhances the regulatory and licensing authority of the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Public Health.

Legislators are also focusing on prevention and are seeking to fund a study to find out what the best message is to take to children in elementary and middle schools.

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