Gov. Baker Unveils Sweeping Opioid Bill Aimed at Stemming Drug Crisis

Governor Charlie Baker

Governor Charlie Baker

BARNSTABLE – Governor Charlie Baker filed legislation yesterday to continue efforts to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.

The bill, called The Act Relative to Substance Use Treatment, Education and Prevention, would provide medical personnel the power to intervene with patients, control the spread of prescription opioids, and increase education for providers.

Gosnold of Cape Cod CEO Raymond Tamasi, who was on the governor’s Opioid Working Group, said all of the provisions in the legislation were from the working group’s recommendations.

“It’s very rewarding to know that in just six months or so since we terminated our meetings, there have been a number of items that were in the 65 recommendations that have already been implemented,” Tamasi said.

“Perhaps the most impressive thing to me is the way the different segments of the concerned community [have] come together and sort of put aside their philosophical or ideological differences to try to come up with real solutions.”

The medical community, addiction provider community and law enforcement have all worked together to create solutions to the opioid abuse problem, he said.

“I’m very impressed with the way law enforcement has reframed [its] view of how we deal with this very difficult problem,” Tamasi said. “Recognizing that it’s a place for providing care and not arresting people.”

One of the key provisions in the bill include a 72-hour limit for first-time opioid prescriptions or when they receive a prescription from a new physician.

Tamasi believes the limited supply provision could ignite some debate on the issue but sees it as a way to keep opioids off the streets.

“We can reduce the availability of these very dangerous medications when they are in the hands of people that don’t need them for long periods of time,” he said.

The bill also includes a 72-hour involuntary hold for anyone brought to an emergency room following an opioid overdose.

“Right now what we are seeing is a lot of opiate overdose victims who are revived with Naloxone either not choosing to go to the emergency room or to the hospital for treatment or remaing there for a brief period of time and then voluntarily saying ‘O.K. I’m going home,’” Tamasi said. “Hopefully they would convince them to make a voluntary choice to go to treatment or do an assessment to determine their needs.”

The bill also amends the civil commitment statute, Section 35, to specify that women committed for substance abuse treatment would be sent to other treatment facilities rather than being sent to MCI Framingham.

Education is also addressed in the bill as it would require practitioners who prescribe controlled substances to receive five hours of training every two years towards effective pain management and to identify patients at high risk of abuse.

Practitioners, including emergency room clinicians, would also be required to check the prescription monitoring program prior to writing prescriptions for any opiate.

The education provisions will also extend to public schools. Schools that are part of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association would be required to train parents, coaches, parent volunteers, physicians and nurses on the dangers of opioid use during the annual head injury safety training program.

The 18-member Opioid Working Group realeased its short term and long recommendations in June.

The Baker-Polito Administration signed the budget to allocate more than $114 million for substance misuse prevention, education and treatment.


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