BOSTON – Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Massachusetts Senate Special Committee on Opioid Addiction Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Options released its latest report on addressing the substance abuse crisis in the Commonwealth.

Sen. Moore, who was appointed to the Special Committee earlier this year, joined in the conversation to craft these new recommendations which seek to further limit the excessive number of prescription pills that become accessible to youth and adults for diversion and misuse. The report also contains provisions to hold private companies accountable for their role in the substance abuse epidemic.

“I am proud to have been part of this effort to put forth meaningful recommendations on how to address this critical issue,” said Sen. Moore. “While many additional steps lie ahead to enact the legislative changes necessary, my colleagues in the Senate have clearly demonstrated that this matter is a priority. In 2014, there were more than thirty-three fatal drug overdoses in the Second Worcester District alone. This epidemic has impacted our family, friends and neighbors and demands a robust legislative response.”

“This is the next step in the efforts of the Senate to hold prescribers accountable, keep children safe from prescription pills, and stem the tide of addiction in our state,” said Committee Chair Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan (D-Leominster). “Our best defense must continue to be to attack this battle from all angles. This legislation will build upon the 2014 laws coming into effect in October and provide additional tools for schools, public health and safety officials to combat this epidemic.”

The Committee provided legislative text and recommendations that the Senate review and debate a series of provisions, including:

Preventing Addiction and Improving Public Health
• Add Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) to the list of screenings a school conducts to identify youth engaging in risky or abusive behaviors and matching them with appropriate services before they become dependent on drugs
• Allow patients to request a partial fill of an opiate drug from a pharmacist to ensure unwanted or unnecessary pills are not leftover in the home, and to reduce the pressure on patients to accept excessive prescriptions.
• Increase access to specialists who specialize in pain management and treatment by creating a program for remote consulting for physicians working with individuals experiencing chronic pain and creating a holistic plan for each patient, similar to the model used for access to child psychiatry.
• Require the Drug Formulary Commission to create and maintain a list of pain management non-narcotic pharmaceutical products that may be recommended as an alternative to opiate medication when appropriate
• Allow an individual to voluntarily include in their Medical Record and their PMP record a binding directive to practitioners not to prescribe or administer an opiate drug to the person in non-emergency situations. Treatment programs would include notice about this option when putting together discharge and continuing treatment plans for persons in recovery.

Holding Industry Accountable
• Require pharmaceutical companies to establish or participate in drug-take back programs to further reduce the number of pills accessible in homes
• Require insurance companies to report annually on denials of behavioral health and addiction services and the reason for the denial of treatment, to the Health Policy Commission’s Office of Patient Protection.
• Require coverage for non-narcotic pain management to complement someone’s pain management plan or defer their reliance on opioids when appropriate. Each insurance carrier would be required to develop a plan for access to non-narcotic pain management, as a requirement for accreditation by the Division of Insurance.
• Each insurance carrier would be further required to develop a prescription drug safety plan, with appropriate safeguards against high-volume opiate prescribing, similar to the model implemented by Blue Cross Blue Shield in recent years.

Addressing Drug Overdoses
• Require additional training for police in the state’s “Good Samaritan” law which allows an individual to call for emergency help when someone is experiencing a drug overdose without fear of arrest or criminal charges
• Protect “Good Samaritans” or first responders who administer naloxone to an overdose victim from civil liability. Currently the state only guarantees protection from criminal prosecution for carrying and administering this prescription product.
• Require that Gabapentin, a drug increasing in popularity for its enhancing effect on opiate misuse, to be reported and monitored by the Prescription Monitoring Program

The Committee first convened in January 2014 in response to the substantial increase in reported overdose emergencies and fatalities throughout communities in Massachusetts. The first piece of legislation released by the Committee and signed into law in August 2014 required private insurance companies to cover up to 14 days of detoxification services and inpatient treatment for private insurance clients, 14 days of inpatient treatment for MassHealth patients, and expanded treatment options for patients and doctors. The insurance coverage mandates go into effect next month on October 1st.