Healey 'disappointed' Baker opioid bill doesn't do more in schools

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BOSTON — The lack of funding for school-based drug education in Gov. Charlie Baker's latest opioid abuse treatment and prevention bill has left Attorney General Maura Healey "disappointed" that the administration did not put more money on the table.

"I think that there are some good things there, but I also have a particular focus on prevention and education and treatment, and I was disappointed to not see more," Healey said last week, responding to a caller during her appearance on WGBH's Boston Public Radio.

Healey said that on a recent visit to a recovery high school, the teenagers who had been sent there from drug courts said universally that they were not taught about the dangers of opioids in school before they became addicted.

Healey explained how her office has made $3 million available to schools for education and prevention programming. She said, "But I know that the need is greater than that and that's why I'm disappointed that we don't have a proposal to fund universal prevention and education in schools."

Baker's bill introduced this month proposes a variety of new steps to fight the epidemic, including increased access to treatment beds, making Narcan available over the counter and allowing emergency room doctors to send patients for addiction treatment against their will for up to 72 hours.

The administration also said it would work with universities to make opioid education a part of all freshman orientation programming and establish a grant program to help schools identify at-risk students and develop intervention programs.

To fund some of these initiatives, Baker said he would divert $30 million from the state's federal Medicaid waiver to expand residential recovery, add recovery coaches and increase access to medication-assisted treatment.

But Healey is not alone in thinking that's not enough.

"I share Attorney General Healey's disappointment with Gov. Baker's inadequate response to the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. When the governor celebrates a drop from 5.77 people dying every day to 5.33 people dying every day and then offers a plan that commits only $30 million from a federal waiver to fight a $10 billion problem, we have to speak up," Newton Mayor and Democrat for governor Setti Warren said.

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