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Miceli, Lyons Join Colleagues In Passing Comprehensive Bill To Fight Opiate Epidemic

Mar 10, 2016 10:35AM ● By Bill Gilman

State Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington and State Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover.

BOSTON – State Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover and state Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington joined with their colleagues today to approve legislation targeting the state’s opioid abuse crisis. 

House Bill 4056, An Act relative to substance use, treatment, education and prevention, passed the House on a vote of 153-0.  The final bill reflects a compromise reached by a six-member conference committee, which spent the past seven weeks working to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill that passed earlier this year. 

“The Baker-Polito Administration and the Legislature have made a commitment to ending the scourge of opioid abuse, which has already claimed the lives of far too many people in the Commonwealth,” said Lyons.  “This bill represents a positive step forward in our efforts to expand drug treatment and prevention in Massachusetts, but there is still more work to be done to address this public health crisis.”

The lengthy bill included several major provisions, including adapting police training to counter drug-induced crimes, promoting early intervention programs targeted at at-risk individuals, and collaborating with drug manufacturers on programs to collect unwanted or outdated medication which are commonly stolen from innocent people’s medicine cabinets.

"All of us in the legislature, especially myself, looked forward to this report with great anticipation,” said Miceli. “It contains some great ideas to help continue pushing back the opiate crisis, and aims to prevent individuals from opportunities to begin or continue their addiction. I am proud of the financial resources, personal, and support we put towards recovery programs to help those already addicted, but we need to concentrate as well on ensuring folks don’t wind up at such a detox program or sobriety program to begin with.

"Giving folks a safe place to drop off medication is one such option to prevent potential addicts from spiraling out of control, and we also are developing programs on the dangers of drugs to further supplement our children’s education when they’re out of school. This bill contained many preemptive measures that will help prevent those at risk for addiction from walking down that dark path, and for those who have become lost this bill continues to expand opportunities to help them get back on the right path. Speaker DeLeo, Chairman Dempsey, and all of us here in the legislature really worked on crafting this bill and I am sure it will be well-received in the Senate too” 

An average of four people die from an opioid overdose every single day in Massachusetts, and the Department of Public Health (DPH) has reported that 3 out of every 4 communities in the Commonwealth experienced at least one opioid-related overdose death between 2012 and 2014.

The conference committee report retains several key provisions that were included in the original House opioid bill that passed on Jan. 13.  These provisions include: limits on the amount of opioids that can be prescribed for acute care patients; expanded use of the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP); and a requirement that hospitals conduct a substance abuse evaluation within the first 24 hours of an individual being brought to the emergency room after suffering an overdose.

In an attempt to curb prescription drug abuse, the opioid bill requires the PMP to be utilized each time a Schedule II or Schedule III narcotic drug prescription is issued.  According to the Baker-Polito Administration, 4.4 million prescriptions were written and 240 million Schedule II and Schedule III pills were disbursed in the Commonwealth in 2014 alone.  That same year, Massachusetts recorded nearly 1,300 opioid-related deaths. 

The opioid bill also:

  • imposes a 7-day supply limit for adult patients who are prescribed an opiate for the first time, and caps all opiate prescriptions for minors at a 7-day supply; 
  • gives patients the option of requesting a partial-fill prescription, or requesting in writing that they not be prescribed any opioid medications;
  • requires the Drug Formulary Commission to identify and publish a list of FDA-approved non-opioid drug products that provide an effective alternative for pain management, and to distribute this list to all prescribers and dispensers;
  • requires medical practitioners to receive training in effective pain management and the risks of abuse and addiction associated with opioid medication before obtaining or renewing their license;
  •  mandates that pharmaceutical companies operating in Massachusetts maintain or participate in a drug stewardship program to collect and safely dispose of unwanted drugs; and
  • allows schools to utilize a confidential verbal screening tool to screen students for substance abuse disorders, which students can opt out of if their parents provide the school with prior written notification.

 The Senate is expected to vote on the conference committee report today (March 10).  Following a final vote on enactment in both branches, the opioid bill will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his signature.

Todd Johnson for Selectman


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