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Governor Files Landmark Substance-abuse Legislation

BOSTON — Continuing a series of initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic, Gov. Charlie Baker 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 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.

“Combating 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,” Baker said. “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 to specify that women committed for substance-use treatment may be sent to new secure treatment units approved by the departments of Public Health and Mental Health, 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 be held for treatment only 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, the 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. Gov. Karyn Polito, adding that the 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.”

A full update on the progress of the Governor’s Opioid Working Group can be found at www.mass.gov/stopaddiction.

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