Thursday, October 1, 2015

Senate Passes Opiate Addiction Prevention Bill

Senate Republican Amendments Safeguard Public Health and Safety

Boston- The State Senate today unanimously adopted 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.

 “Our actions in the Senate today will help to prevent the human and economic costs caused by abuse of opiates and pain killers and give hope to those families who have struggled to aid a loved one suffering with addiction,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Through our Republican Caucus amendments to the bill, we engage the resources of state agencies to maximize collaboration with police, reduce incidents of driving under the influence of drugs, assess obstructions to inpatient treatment and reduce the over prescription of opiates.”

The Senate bill, known as the Substance Abuse Prevention Act, developed from recent findings of the Senate Special Opioid Committee 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 Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) a member of the Special Committee. “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.”

The Senate Special Opioid Committee was convened in January 2014 to respond to a sharp rise in fatalities and overdoses. 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 the bill, Senate 2020, 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 five-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.

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