Massachusetts House OKs bill to combat deadly opioid scourge
BOSTON >> The Massachusetts House unanimously approved a bill Wednesday designed to address the state's deadly opioid addiction crisis.
The bill would limit initial opiate painkiller prescriptions to a seven-day supply and set an evaluation requirement within 24 hours for overdose victims seeking help at hospital emergency rooms.
It would also let patients fill only part of their painkiller prescriptions at a time and require schools to screen students for drug abuse.
The bill differs from Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's proposal that would let doctors commit patients involuntarily to drug treatment facilities for up to 72 hours if they're considered an immediate danger.
Baker administration spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton said the governor appreciates the push by lawmakers to get a bill to his desk.
The Senate is expected to take up the measure on Thursday.
The state Department of Public Health says there were nearly 1,100 confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in 2014, a 65-percent increase from the 668 confirmed cases in 2012. Data for January 2015 through September 2015 also suggest a higher number of overdose deaths during that period than the same period in 2014.
The bill includes elements from Baker's version of the legislation, including requiring doctors and other prescribers to check the state's Prescription Monitoring Program each time they prescribe an opioid to make sure patients are not seeking multiple prescriptions from doctors.
The Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents 25,000 doctors, supports the bill.
The society's president, Dr. Dennis Dimitri, said in a statement that the bill includes a number of helpful steps to deal with a complex problem.
He singled out the provision that would limit first-time opioid painkiller prescriptions to a seven-day supply, which he said should "reduce the amount of prescription drugs that can be diverted to abuse or misuse, and at the same time allow a reasonable time for prescriptions for those patients who truly need pain relief."
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