Like so many states across the country, Massachusetts is facing a growing epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. In March 2014, a Public Health Emergency was declared in the Commonwealth, triggering the formation of a Task Force which brought together affected individuals and families with stakeholders from public health, law enforcement, medical providers, and community agencies, among others.
Based upon the findings of the Task Force and with funding allocated by the legislature, the Department of Public Health (DPH) has taken a series of concrete actions to strengthen its ongoing efforts to prevent opioid addiction, reduce the number of opioid overdoses, help those already addicted to recover, and map a long-term solution to ending widespread opioid abuse in the Commonwealth.
A comprehensive strategy to address the crisis requires taking action in each of the following four key areas: Prevention, Intervention, Treatment, and Recovery Support. The list below highlights some of the many concrete actions undertaken since the declaration of the Public Health Emergency.
Preventing Opioid Addiction
- DPH requires that prescribers use the online Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to issuing a first prescription for opioids to any person. This step helps prescribers prevent opioid addiction as well as identify and intervene with those persons who are at risk for developing substance use disorders.
- DPH recently increased the number of communities who are funded to work on the primary prevention of opioid abuse and fatal and non-fatal overdose. The MA Opioid Addition Prevention Coalition (MOAPC) grants used evidenced based prevention strategies developed in concert with community members to support healthy drug-free communities. As of today, 96 communities are supported throughout the state through these prevention collaboratives.
Tools for Opioid Overdose Intervention
- All first responders in Massachusetts are now permitted by law to carry and administer Naloxone — sometimes referred to as Narcan, an extraordinarily effective opioid overdose reversal tool. In addition, DPH now provides direct funding for the purchase of Naloxone to a total of 23 communities in the Commonwealth with the highest rates of fatal opioid overdose over a five year period. Naloxone is also now available in select pharmacies without a prescription from a doctor through a “standing order” from the pharmacy medical director — providing greater access to family and friends who fear a loved one might overdose.
Increasing the Availability of Treatment Resources
- DPH has provided funding for an additional 128 acute treatment service beds including detoxification and clinical stabilization beds in areas of the state where these vital services were not previously available.
- DPH has earmarked funding to establish five new community and home based programs focused on treating youth and young adults. These programs are evidence based and developmentally appropriate for young people and their families.
- The Department has also provided additional funding to increase to 18 the number of community health centers located in areas identified as high need able to provide opioid treatment. These health centers will offer both buprenorphine, sometimes known as suboxone, and injectable naltrexone, sometimes known as Vivitrol. Both of these medications are proven to be effective in the treatment of opioid addiction, and their availability in these health centers is a step toward integrating addiction treatment into overall health care services.
- In addition, the Department has provided funding to support piloting injectable naltrexone in the Department of Correction to assist those citizens re-entering the community post incarceration.
- Opioid Treatment Programs across the state will also receive additional DPH funding this year to provide methadone treatment services to a greater number of opioid addicted persons. Methadone treatment has repeatedly been shown to be an effective treatment for opioid addiction.
Supporting People in Recovery from Opioid Addiction
- The Department has provided additional funding to increase the number of Recovery Support Centers to 10, and to expand the hours during which these centers are open. Recovery Support Centers play a key role in providing community-based support to those in recovery from opioid addiction.
- DPH has increased funding to Learn to Cope, a support organization which offers education, resources, peer support and hope for parents and family members of people addicted to opioids and other drugs. The additional funding will allow Learn to Cope to establish new support groups across the state.
- DPH has awarded funding for a new Recovery High School, bringing the total of Recovery High Schools across the state to five. These high schools provide supportive environments to assist young people maintain their recovery while earning their high school diplomas.
- The MA Organization for Addiction Recovery was awarded additional funding by DPH to increase their capacity to provide peer services to those in recovery from addiction.
Report of the Opioid Task Force
Public Health Advisory
Emergency Order Regarding Prescription Monitoring Program
Latest Statistics for Opioid Overdose
This information is provided by the Department of Public Health.