For Immediate Release - August 20, 2010

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION, LEGISLATORS AND ADVOCATES CELEBRATE NEW LAW TO COMBAT SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Initiative expands state's Prescription Monitoring Program, education and prevention programs



Governor Patrick signs legislation relative to prescription drug monitoring and substance abuse prevention. (Photo credit: Holland Hinman/Governor's Office). View additional photos.

BOSTON - Friday, August 20, 2010 - Governor Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray were joined by state legislators and advocates at a State House ceremony today to highlight a new law that will strengthen the state's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) and improve education and prevention programs in an effort to curb substance abuse in Massachusetts. The Governor signed "An Act Adding Safeguards to the Prescription Monitoring Program and Furthering Substance Abuse Education and Prevention" on August 9th.

"By signing this bill, we are reaffirming our commitment to the public health of communities across the Commonwealth," said Governor Patrick. "I want to thank our legislative and private partners for their dedication and advocacy on behalf of the men and women who wrestle with substance abuse every day. This law will help us provide those individuals with the supports they need and bring us to a healthier Commonwealth for the future."

"By partnering with the Legislature, we are providing solutions to help combat substance abuse, a disease impacting many individuals and families across the state," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Chair of the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention.

"Enhancing the Prescription Monitoring Program and strengthening our existing prevention and education programs will further support this community and help build a stronger, safer Commonwealth."

The Patrick-Murray Administration partnered with legislators, advocates, and the community to deliver this comprehensive legislation to address the opiate crisis in the Commonwealth. The law sets the statutory foundation to expand and modernize the Prescription Monitoring Program. Recognizing that at least 9,000 residents are suspected of engaging in "doctor shopping" annually, the program will now be able to provide comprehensive prescription history reports to prescribers and pharmacists through an electronic system available in real time.

The law also broadens the scope of the Prescription Monitoring Program. Currently, the program only monitors the prescribing and dispensing of Schedule II controlled substances; however, with this statute and the Massachusetts Public Health Council's unanimous approval of updated regulations on August 11th, the Program will now monitor all federally controlled substances, including Schedules II through V, prescribed by professionals licensed to prescribe.

"This new program will provide critical data to help reduce drug overdose deaths, prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse, improve clinical information for prescribers and pharmacists, and result in higher quality health care for patients with chronic pain," said Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach.

"Preventing the abuse of addictive medications will help save lives, sustain families, and lower healthcare costs. I am delighted not only that Governor Patrick has championed this important legislation but that it comes to his desk with bi-partisan support," said Senator Susan Fargo, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

"The prescription monitoring program is a great tool to improve the public health and public welfare of the Commonwealth, as well as successfully fight healthcare fraud and criminal activity, all while protecting the privacy of patients across the Commonwealth," said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

"The prescription monitoring legislation which the House and Senate passed, and the Governor signed, is long overdue. This bill will curb the availability of illegal prescription drugs on Massachusetts' streets by making several common sense changes to Massachusetts' anti-drug efforts. I am proud to have been involved in the crafting and passage of this legislation, and as Chair of the Massachusetts OxyContin and Heroin Commission I am pleased that several of the Commission's recommendations were incorporated into the final bill. This law will take us a step closer to curbing an epidemic of OxyContin and Heroin abuse," said Senator Steven A. Tolman.

"I am proud to join the Governor and his administration in combating this dangerous epidemic," said Representative Thomas A. Golden Jr.

"This law is a battle won in the war on drugs in our state. The provisions included in this law will enable the Commonwealth to become more aggressive in staving off this epidemic. By expanding the types of drugs we monitor and working toward a real-time electronic monitoring system, Massachusetts will be better equipped to save lives and protect families from the damage of prescription drug addiction," said Representative Peter Koutoujian.

"Prescription drug abuse is not an urban or suburban issue and it is not an economic issue. It is an epidemic that has tormented each and every one of us and affected countless lives. This law is a very important step and will undoubtedly save lives in our communities," said Representative Steven Walsh.

Many of the additional measures included in this law stem from recommendations released in the November 2009 Oxycontin and Heroin Commission Report that support increased prevention and education programs. In 2008, Governor Patrick also re-established the Interagency Council for Substance Abuse and Prevention by Executive Order #496. Chaired by Lt. Governor Murray, the Council maximizes coordination between the Department of Public Health's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS) and a number of other state agencies that have programs or departments that deal with the issue of substance abuse and/or prevention. To learn more about resources provided by BSAS, please visit http://www.mass.gov/dph/bsas.

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