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Massachusetts Senate Passes Opiate Addiction Prevention Bill

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Senate passed legislation today to address the ongoing substance abuse crisis in the state.  The legislation focuses on prevention and reducing the number of opiate pills in circulation by working with doctors, insurancecompanies, pharmaceutical companies, and pharmacists.

In addition, by expanding a prescription take back program, the bill seeks to further limit the excessive number of unwanted and unused prescription pills that become accessible to youth and adults for diversion and misuse. The bill also establishes a patient’s right to fill their prescription for a schedule II opiate, the highest risk classification under DEA rules, in a quantity less than the full prescribed amount, further reducing the quantity of unused and excess drugs.

“I was pleased to join my colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate in passing comprehensive substance abuse prevention legislation,” said Senator DiDomenico, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Last year, we enacted vital legislation that focused on expanding treatment for individuals fighting addiction. This year, we reaffirmed our commitment to fighting the opioid crisis by passing legislation that will prevent opiate addiction from happening in the first place. Together, these two bills will help combat opioid abuse and will put our Commonwealth on the path to recovery from this devastating epidemic.”

Provisions of the legislation include:

  • Add Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) to the list of screenings a school conducts to identify youth engaging in risky or abusive behaviors and matching them with appropriate services before they become dependent on drugs
  • Increase access to specialists who specialize in pain management and treatment by creating a program for remote consulting for physicians working with individuals experiencing chronic pain and creating a holistic plan for each patient, similar to the model used for access to child psychiatry. 
  • Require pharmaceutical companies to establish or participate in drug-take back programs to further reduce the number of pills accessible in homes or pay an assessment into a prevention trust fund based on the quantity of the product being dispensed in Massachusetts
  • Protect “Good Samaritans” who administer naloxone to an overdose victim from civil liability. Currently the state only guarantees protection from criminal prosecution for carrying and administering this prescription product.
  • Require that Gabapentin, a drug increasing in popularity for its enhancing effect on opiate misuse, to be reported and monitored by the Prescription Monitoring Program
  • Require that all schedule II opiate prescriptions be written in an “up to” quantity, allowing patients to voluntarily reduce the amount dispensed; and require prescribers to educate patients about their right to receive lesser quantities of opiates.
  • Allow patients to voluntarily record a non-opiate directive, as a binding instruction to prescribers that the patient should not be offered an opiate; thereby allowing persons in recovery or for any other reason to indicate their preference for non-opiate pain management.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Senate Special Opioid Committee first convened in January 2014 in response to the substantial increase in reported overdose emergencies and fatalities throughout communities in Massachusetts.  

The first piece of legislation released by the Committee and signed into law in August 2014 required private insurance companies to cover up to 14 days of detoxification services and inpatient treatment for private insurance clients, 14 days of inpatient treatment for MassHealth patients, and expanded treatment options for patients and doctors.  The insurance coverage mandates went into effect on October 1st, 2015.