Gov. Baker signs expansive bill to combat state’s opioid epidemic

BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed an expansive bill Tuesday to help combat the state’s opioid epidemic by expanding prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery strategies.

“The opioid and heroin crisis has tragically claimed scores of lives and broken families across the Commonwealth, and this new bill will serve as our latest tool kit to address the public health crisis through increased access to treatment, education, and prevention,” Baker said. “While there is still much work to do, this bipartisan bill will support the fight against this horrible epidemic by holding providers more accountable for prescribing practices, taking stronger steps to intervene earlier in a person’s life, and expanding access to recovery coaches.”

The bill will strengthen education and prevention efforts; strengthen intervention and harm reduction strategies; educate students, parents, and teachers on the dangers of opioids and addiction; and ensure that psychiatric and substance use treatment beds meet the needs of the state.

It marks the Baker-Polito Administration’s second major legislative action to address the opioid crisis since taking office in 2015.

Below is a detailed summary of the bill:

Strengthening the Commonwealth’s education and prevention efforts

Building on this success of the STEP Act which instituted the nation’s first seven day limit on opioid prescriptions for adults resulting in a 29 percent decline in prescribing, the bill mandates:

  • All prescribers convert to secure electronic prescriptions (including Schedule II drugs) by 2020.
  • Prescribers check the PMP each time a prescription for a benzodiazepine is issued.
  • Massachusetts’ existing partial fill law align with new federal changes that allow patients to fill the remainder of their opioid prescription at the same pharmacy within five days of the issue date on the script.
  • DPH issue a statewide standing order for naloxone from a pharmacy.
  • Changing the composition of the Board of Registration of Nursing to require that one nurse member currently provide direct care to patients with substance use disorder; one nurse member provide direct care to patients living in outpatient community based behavioral health setting and one nurse member currently provide direct care to patients living with chronic care.

Strengthening intervention and harm reduction strategies

  • Establishing a recovery coach commission to review and make recommendations regarding the standards that should govern the credentialing of recovery coaches.
  • Requiring the development and implementation of a statewide program to provide remote consultations to primary care practices, nurse practitioners, and other health care providers for individuals over age 17 who are experiencing chronic pain or exhibit symptoms of substance use disorder.
  • Creating a section 35 involuntary commitment commission to study the efficacy of involuntary inpatient treatment for non-court involved individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder.
  • Establishing a commission to study the way consumer protection laws in the Commonwealth may be strengthened to hold corporate entities responsible for their role in furthering the opioid epidemic.
  • Creating a commission on community behavioral health promotion and prevention and a separate commission to review and make recommendations regarding harm reduction opportunities, including harm reduction sites, to address substance use disorder. Both commissions will be chaired by the EOHHS Secretary.

Educating students, parents and teachers on the dangers of opioids and addiction

  • Creating a safe and supportive schools trust fund to promote positive mental, emotional, and behavioral health among children and young adults and to prevent substance use disorders among children and young adults.

Improving access to treatment

Since 2015, the Baker-Polito Administration has doubled spending to address the opioid crisis and added more than 1,200 treatment beds, including 768 adult substance use treatment beds at different treatment levels, and certified more than 168 Sober Homes accounting for an additional 2,242 beds. This legislation continues to develop innovative strategies to get individuals into treatment by:

  • Creating new pathways to treatment in the emergency department
    • Ensures more timely substance use disorder evaluations of individuals treated in an ED following an opioid overdose.
    • Requires hospital staff to either admit the patient into an inpatient service or provide a referral and transition to an internal or community-based treatment program when a patient expresses an interest in treatment.
    • Requires acute care hospitals, satellite emergency facilities, or emergency service programs to record the opiate-related overdose incident and results of the substance use evaluation in the patient’s electronic medical record.
  • Expanding the use of medication assisted treatment (MAT)
    • Requires emergency departments to offer MAT.
    • Requires that all Section 35 facilities maintain the capacity to treat substance use disorders with all FDA-approved MAT modalities.
    • Requires DPH to implement a pilot program for MAT in five Houses of Correction (Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex and Norfolk) to be implemented no later than September 1, 2019.
    • Requires that all three FDA-approved MAT modalities be offered to detainees or prisoners at the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (MASAC), MCI-Framingham, South Middlesex Correctional Center, and MCI-Cedar Junction upon the recommendation of a DATA (Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000).

Ensure that psychiatric and substance use treatment beds meet the needs of the Commonwealth

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