Governor Baker Files Landmark Substance Use Legislation
Bill Boosts Opioid Education, Tightens Prescribing, and Adds Pathway to Treatment
BOSTON – Continuing the series of initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic, Governor Baker today unveiled legislation to provide medical personnel with the power to intervene with patients suffering from addiction, control the spread of addictive prescription opioids and increase education about substance use disorder (SUD) for providers and in the community. The bill, titled “An Act Relative to Substance Use Treatment, Education and Prevention,” contains several additional provisions developed by the Governor’s Opioid Working Group to address prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
“Combatting the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth calls for a comprehensive approach, and filing today’s landmark legislation is a critical step toward creating more effective treatment pathways and better controlling opioid prescribing practices for first-time patients,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration has already implemented a series of the Working Group’s recommendations to tackle this epidemic from every angle, ranging from prevention to recovery support.”
This bill calls for new requirements for practitioners, educators and communities and amends the civil commitment statute, section 35, to specify that women committed for substance use treatment may be sent to new secure treatment units approved by the Departments of Public Health (DPH) and Mental Health (DMH) and ends the practice of sending women to MCI Framingham for treatment. Further, medical professionals will be granted the authority to involuntarily commit an individual for treatment for 72 hours if they pose a danger to themselves or others. Currently, individuals suffering from substance-use disorders can only be held for treatment through an order from the courts, which are not always in session, limiting access for families and patients in need of a 24 hour “front door” to treatment for a substance-related emergency.
To better control opioid prescribing practices, this legislation contains a provision limiting patients to a 72-hour supply the first-time they are prescribed an opioid or when they are prescribed an opioid from a new doctor. Practitioners will also be required to always check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to prescribing an opioid to a patient, and will be required to fulfill five hours of training on pain management and addiction every two years.
“Our administration is utilizing every tool in the toolbox to fight the opioid crisis tainting every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Filing today’s bill serves as the latest call to action to execute a dynamic strategy and we look forward to working with the legislature to enact meaningful laws to help our citizens.”
Governor Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders announced the landmark legislation at a State House press conference, joined by Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel and members of the Working Group, including Dr. Sarah Wakeman.
“Since the Working Group’s Action Plan was made public in June, we have expanded treatment services, eliminated insurance barriers and worked to increase education for students, parents, and faculty, broadened public awareness of the crisis and expanded access to life-saving Narcan,” said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Chair of the Opioid Working Group. “This legislation will allow us to continue progress in order to bend the trend of overdoses and addiction that is devastating individuals, families and our communities.”
“Addiction is a disease that is caused by a mix of genetics and exposure,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, a member of the Opioid Working Group. “As physicians, legislators and community members we cannot change people's genetics but we can begin to work on the exposures that leave individuals vulnerable to this deadly disease.”
In June, the 18-member Working Group released 65 recommendations, including short and long term action items, to be implemented over the next three years. While some require legislative action, other reforms require funding or can be achieved through partnerships with private industry and federal leaders.
Already, the Baker-Polito Administration signed a budget to allocate more than $114 million in spending for substance misuse prevention, education and treatment, increased bulk purchasing of Narcan in municipalities and changed reporting requirements for the Prescription Monitoring Program from 7 days to 24 hours. Further, 113 treatment beds have opened in six communities (Quincy, Princeton, New Bedford, Boston, Westborough, Fall River) with more expected in Greenfield this winter. The administration named a Drug Formulary Commission to look at the safety, effectiveness and cost of abuse deterrent pain medications, met with the Mass Medical Society and state medical deans and issued best practices guidelines for opioid prescribing. In June, the administration also launched a series of multi-media public service announcements to warn the Commonwealth of opioid use, and plans to unveil a new public campaign to tackle the stigma of addiction soon.
A full update on the Governor’s Opioid Working Group progress can be found at: www.mass.gov/stopaddiction.
Key Provisions In The Act Relative to Substance Use Treatment, Education and Prevention (STEP):