BOSTON – Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that last Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to address the ongoing substance abuse crisis in the Commonwealth. The legislation focuses on prevention and the reduction of opiate pill circulation in collaboration with doctors, patients, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and pharmacists.
Through the expansion of the prescription take back program, the bill seeks to further limit the excessive number of unwanted and unused prescription pills that become accessible to youth and adults for diversion and misuse while also holding private drug companies accountable. In addition, the bill provides patients with the right to fill their prescription in a quantity less than the fully prescribed amount, thereby further reducing the quantity of unused and excess drugs.
Several Moore-sponsored amendments were also adopted by the Senate, including a provision banning the use of synthetic heroin or “acetyl fentanyl” which currently evades regulatory enforcement. Senator Moore also successfully amended the bill to prohibit the possession, sale or manufacturing of powdered alcohol which has become a growing issue across the country. The third Moore amendment adopted by the Senate will establish a commission to study a standard roadside evaluation to determine whether a driver is under the influence of drugs, similar to the current sobriety tests used for alcohol intoxication.
“Simply put, this legislation is about preventing addiction, promoting public safety and saving lives,” said Sen. Moore. “I have heard from many residents of the Second Worcester District who have lost a friend, neighbor or family to addiction. This legislation not only targets the accessibility of opioids but also provides preventative and educational measures to protect residents of our Commonwealth.”
Notable provisions of the legislation include:
• 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
• Increase access to specialists who specialize in pain management and treatment by creating a remote consulting program for physicians working with individuals experiencing chronic pain. Specialists would create a holistic plan for each patient, similar to the model used for access to child psychiatry.
• Require pharmaceutical companies to establish or participate in drug-take back programs to further reduce the number of pills accessible in homes or pay an assessment into a prevention trust fund based on the quantity of the product being dispensed in Massachusetts
• Protect “Good Samaritans” 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
• Require that all schedule II opiate prescriptions be written in an “up to” quantity, allowing patients to voluntarily reduce the amount dispensed; and require prescribers to educate patients about their right to receive lesser quantities of opiates.
• Allow patients to voluntarily record a non-opiate directive, as a binding instruction to prescribers that the patient should not be offered an opiate; thereby allowing persons in recovery or for any other reason to indicate their preference for non-opiate pain management.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Earlier this year, the Legislature also passed legislation which now requires 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. These statewide insurance coverage mandates went into effect on October 1, 2015.