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Massachusetts Senate Takes Action on Addiction

Oct 28, 2015 12:44PM ● By Pamela Johnson
On Oct. 1, the State Senate 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. 

“We have seen an alarmingly large increase in opiate abuse and death-related drugs in our communities. It is my hope that, at the end of the legislative process, we can help to prevent and alleviate an issue that affects families everyday,” said State Sen. Ryan C. Fattman (R-Webster).  “This bill aims to help not only those in need of addiction services, but also helps give our communities the resources they need to help prevent further opiate abuse.”
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.

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 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, including:
  • 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,
Opiates are responsible for more annual deaths in Massachusetts than auto accidents and guns combined.  At Bulletin deadline, the bill was moving to the House of Representatives.
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