The substance abuse bill signed into law this week by Governor Deval Patrick adds a few more weapons to the fight against drug addiction that plagues Berkshire County and Massachusetts, a fight that is likely to be long-term in nature.
One of the strengths of the law is its insistence that insurers become more involved in the fight. They will be required to reimburse patients for treatment of addiction from licensed counselors, and the requirement of prior authorization for outpatient substance abuse treatments will be eliminated. Addicts need treatment quickly before their situation worsens or results in their deaths, and the removal of financial and bureaucratic obstacles will allow help to come far sooner.
Democratic attorney general candidate Maura Healey, in a meeting at The Eagle on Friday, talked of the need for Massachusetts to set up a prescription drug monitoring program to address addictions to prescription drugs that can lead to addictions to heroin. The program, which Ms. Healey said was in place and working in other states, allows electronic monitoring of prescription drugs from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to the patient. This would make it less likely that powerful painkillers like Oxycontin will end up in the wrong hands and will cut down on doctor-shopping by people looking to feed their addiction or sell the drugs on the streets.
The governor declared the state’s epidemic of heroin overdoses and opioid addictions to be a public health emergency in March, and a variety of Berkshire County groups are addressing the problem as well. Combating it requires regulation, enforcement and funding, and the money will be well-spent by reducing the prison population, addressing crime and restoring addicts to productive lives at home and at work.