Massachusetts War on Opioids

By Bob Katzen

The House 147-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill aimed at combatting the opioid problem in the Bay State by addressing opioid addiction, prevention and treatment.

The bill creates the Community-Based Behavioral Health Promotion and Prevention Trust Fund to support evidence-based and evidence-informed programs for children and young adults; requires providers to check the Prescription Monitoring Program prior to issuing any prescription for a benzodiazepine; prohibits discounts and rebates for prescription opiates; requires electronic prescribing for all controlled substances, with a few exceptions, effective January 1, 2020; and requires facilities to accept MassHealth coverage on a non-discriminatory basis.

Other provisions establish a statewide standing order for Narcan, expanding access to this opioid overdose-reversing drug without an individual prescription; require emergency rooms to have the protocols and capacity to provide evidence-based interventions following an opiate overdose, including medication-assisted treatment; and establishes a 2-year pilot program to offer medication-assisted treatment at 6 prisons.

“The House of Representatives continued its steadfast commitment to dealing with the relentless public health crisis of the opioid epidemic and the disease of addiction,” said Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham) who chairs the Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery and is also a nurse.

“Representatives are deeply committed and responsive to

the desperate need of individuals and families ravaged by this disease and the communities strained by the demands of providing services. The legislation looks to the future and says that a focus on prevention in the community and strengthening and expanding the behavioral health system will stem the tide.”

“It looks to the present and says, ‘we are in this battle together to save lives through care and treatment,’ addressing the urgency that this is truly a life or death issue throughout the commonwealth,” continued Garlick. “Many of the resources in this bill will be available immediately — removing barriers to desperately needed care and giving individuals, families and communities the tools they need, when they need them, where they need them.”

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