Senate Takes Action on Addiction Prevention

October 1, 2015

Boston –Today, Senator Richard J. Ross joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate in unanimously adopting a bill intended to reduce the rate of opioid addiction and increase efforts to retool pain management practices through policy changes at state agencies and municipal health, safety and education departments.

The Senate bill, An Act relative to substance use prevention, was developed from recent findings of the Senate Special Opioid Committee, of which Senator Ross is a member, following a year-long effort to produce recommendations to further strengthen opioid abuse prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery options.

“Over the past several years, we have seen with alarming regularity an increase in drug-related deaths across the Commonwealth. This opioid epidemic touches every community and no family is immune to it. Last session, we passed comprehensive legislation that made a strike against this epidemic, but today we went a step further by focusing on education and prevention,” said Senator Ross.

The Senate Special Opioid Committee first convened in January 2014 in response to the substantial increase in reported overdose emergencies and fatalities across Massachusetts.  Deaths from heroin and other opioids totaled more than 1,200 in 2014, a spike of 34% over 2013 and 88 percent greater than 2012.

Components of this legislation include:

  • Directing the newly formed Drug Formulary Commission to publish a list of non-opiate pain management products that may be used as lower risk alternatives,
  • Establishing a voluntary program for a person in recovery to record a non-opiate directive. This would allow a person to have a clear indicator in their patient record that a health care practitioner shall not administer or prescribe opiate drugs to that person,
  • Limiting opioid prescriptions in an emergency department to a 5-day supply;
  • Establishing a Drug Stewardship program for drug manufacturers to allow patients to safely dispose of unwanted drugs,
  • Creating a school-based screening and referral system,
  • Ensuring patient access to pain management consultation,
  • Expanding our “Good Samaritan” legal protections for first responders to possess and administer Naloxone.

Senators considered more than forty amendments during debate of the bill and adopted several sponsored or cosponsored by members of the Republican Caucus, which:

  • Lessens unused and unwanted prescriptions by requiring a practitioner to consult with a patient to determine preferences for reduces quantities and dosages of opioid medications, a so-called partial fill option,
  • Assists local police departments by providing service referral and education training for individuals seeking treatment at local police departments,
  • Makes a requirement for school districts to conduct student drug screenings to be subject to state appropriation,
  • Creates a special commission to examine roadside drug testing,
  • Requires an assessment of the capacity for inpatient substance abuse treatment,
  • Includes a module on addictive substances to be part of driver education courses for Junior Operators,
  • Requires that a practitioner receive informed consent from the parent or guardian of the minor prior to prescribing a controlled substance,
  • Requires acute hospitals to report the number of newborns exposed to controlled substances.

“It is my hope that this legislation will not only reach those who are already in need of addiction treatments, but also our children who are most susceptible to outside influences. This legislation provides key tools for our schools, physicians, and public safety officials to limit the amount of unused and unwanted prescription pills available, keep our communities safe, and ultimately save lives,” said Senator Ross.

The first piece of legislation released by the Committee and signed into law in August 2014 required private insurance companies to cover up to 14 days of detoxification services and inpatient treatment for private insurance clients, 14 days of inpatient treatment for MassHealth patients, and expanded treatment options for patients and doctors. The insurance coverage mandates go into effect today, October 1st, 2015.

Opiates are responsible for more annual deaths in Massachusetts than auto accidents and guns combined.  The bill, S2020, now moves to the House of Representatives.

Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.

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