Massachusetts House set to debate substance abuse bill
BOSTON — Massachusetts House lawmakers are set to vote on a bill this week aimed at addressing the state's opioid abuse troubles.
Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday that the chamber will debate the measure Wednesday. He said he hopes to work with Senate lawmakers to get a final bill to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker as soon as possible.
"In my district, we have lost countless friends and neighbors to this deadly disease," DeLeo said at an afternoon Statehouse press conference.
The House bill would limit initial opiate painkiller prescriptions to a seven-day supply and set an evaluation requirement for overdose victims who seek help at emergency rooms.
The bill doesn't go as far as one proposed by Baker, which would let doctors commit a person involuntarily to a drug treatment facility for up to 72 hours if he or she is considered an immediate danger to his or herself or others.
Baker's bill would also limit initial opiate painkiller prescriptions to a three-day supply.
The House bill also includes legal protections for anyone administering the overdose-reversing drug naloxone — also known as Narcan — to a person during an opiate overdose and requires a doctor to check the Prescription Monitoring Program every time a patient is prescribed a high-risk opiate medication.
It would also strengthen drug education programs in schools for students as young as the third grade.
The Senate has already passed their version of the bill.
All three versions are aimed at addressing the frightening rise in opioid-related overdose deaths and abuse. Massachusetts recorded at least 1,089 such deaths in 2014, a 63 percent increase over 2012.
Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg said he looks forward to both bills going to a joint House and Senate conference committee to hammer out a single, compromise version to send to Baker.
Baker said when he filed his bill, he knew it contained a number of contentious elements and he fully expected that not everyone would agree with everything he recommended.
"But the good news here is there seems to be a fair amount of agreement on a number of elements and I'm looking forward to being able to sign a comprehensive reform bill sometime soon after the Senate comes back into session," Baker said Monday following his weekly meeting with the two legislative leaders.
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