Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Taking Action on Addiction

      The State Senate has been focused for some time now on confronting the many serious problems caused in our communities by addiction to opiates and pain medications.  In fact, last year I joined with Senate President Therese Murray, Senator John Keenan, Senator Jennifer Flanagan the rest of our Senate Republican Caucus to develop and secure the passage of pioneering legislation to address the treatment of addiction. Key elements of that legislation, which became law as Chapter 258 of the acts of 2014, an Act to Increase Opportunities for Long-Term Substance Abuse Recovery, include provisions that:
  • ·Requires insurers to pay for up to 14 days of inpatient care for those in need of treatment for addiction,
  • Forbids insurers from requiring prior authorization for treatment services,
  •  Requires hospitals to report on the number of infants born exposed to controlled substances,
  •  Makes prescription drug drop boxes for unwanted medicines more accessible,
  • ·Enhances Prescription Monitoring Program use by physicians to prevent drug diversion violations,
  • ·Earmarked $20 million to ensure the availability of more detox beds, and
  •  Created a special committee on opioid addiction, to which I appointed Senator Richard Ross who represented our Senate Republican Caucus well.

More recently, I was able to secure $100,000 in funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 state budget, as the Senate overwhelmingly adopted an amendment to assist the Gloucester Police Department and two other police departments in developing a pilot program based on Gloucester’s “Angel Program”.  Through the initiation of Police Chief Leonard Campanello, the program refers to treatment addicts who resent themselves at the police station seeking help.  This effort has been recognized nationally, you can read more about it here -

Now, the Senate has received the report of the special committee established last year, and is preparing to act tomorrow (Thursday) on a bill reflecting its recommendations.  Some of its major components 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.
I have proposed several amendments to this bill, and a few of them include measures to:

  • ·         Conduct an annual assessment of treatment beds, and obstacles preventing those needing them from having access to them,
  • ·         Prevent the school-based screening program in the bill from becoming and unfunded mandate my making it subject to the appropriation of state funds,
  • ·         Treating roadside testing for operating motor vehicles while under the influence of drugs in a similar manner as operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
 The entire report of the special committee is valuable, and I encourage you to read it by clicking this link:

My hope is that through the types of proaction described here we can collectively prevent the human and economic cost of criminal justice incarceration and hospitalization caused by addiction to opiates and pain killers.