Senator Downing praises opiate law passage in Legislature


PITTSFIELD — State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, praised passage of the opiate legislation Thursday, saying it "enhances intervention, prevention and education efforts, including the creation of a framework to evaluate and treat patients who present in emergency rooms with an apparent overdose."

Downing added, "This new practice, which will be covered by insurance, is designed to ensure the proper assessment and discharge of patients who seek voluntary treatment. If a patient refuses treatment, information on health and community resources will be provided."

He said the framework reflects 2012 University of Miami Medical School findings that voluntary treatment is more effective and affordable than involuntary commitment.

"I am excited to cast my vote for this concrete set of initiatives that will make a measurable impact in fighting the addiction epidemic in the Commonwealth," Downing said.

The bill limits first-time opiate prescriptions to seven days for adults and all opiate prescriptions for minors to seven days, with exceptions for chronic pain management, cancer and palliative care.

Practitioners would now check the prescription monitoring program each time they prescribe any opiate and correspondingly note that in the patient's medical records.

The bill establishes a non-opiate directive form, allowing patients to include a notation in their records that they shall not be offered opiates. It also provides the option of a "partial fill," which allows patients, in consultation with their doctor, to request a lesser amount than indicated on the prescription.

He said the legislation updates current law, which requires all public schools to have a policy regarding substance abuse education, by directing schools to report their plans to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. DESE will then consult with the state Department of Public Health to provide recommendations that will assist schools and ensure they are providing effective and up-to-date education. Additional education materials will be provided to all student-athletes.

To ensure that unused medications are safely collected and disposed of, the legislation requires manufacturers of controlled substances in Massachusetts to participate in either a drug stewardship program or develop an alternative plan as determined by DPH.

Having been accepted by both branches, the conference committee report now goes to the governor for his approval, Downing said.


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