By John Lynds
Over the past few years the scourge of heroin addiction has hit home with a string of deaths from overdoses in East Boston. The overdose deaths showed that this neighborhood is not immune to the growing epidemic and the drug has seemed to become more dangerous due to its purity than in recent years.
The increase in heroin comes stems from an increase in opiate painkiller abuse many argue starts with a simple prescription from a doctor. A lot of addicts switch to heroin once they become addicted to opiates like OxyContin because heroin is very pure these days and in some cases costs only $3.50 a bag.
The problem with OxyContin abuse is the cost. In order to feed a daily habit, abusers will resort to stealing the drugs or committing other crimes, like dealing the painkiller to get their fix. Many times abusers realize they can get the same ‘rush’ from the cheaper and more widely available heroin and switch to this street narcotic in order to get high. Again this leads to more crime in the neighborhood as abuses frequently commit robberies or home invasions to fund their habit and more are now dying.
On Monday, Governor Charlie Baker signed landmark legislation into law to address the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing neighborhoods like Eastie and the state.
The bill, titled An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention, passed with unanimous votes in both Houses and includes numerous recommendations from the Governor’s opioid working group, including prevention education for students and doctors, and the first law in the nation to establish a seven day limit on first-time opioid prescriptions.
“Today, the Commonwealth stands in solidarity to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic that continues to plague our state and burden countless families and individuals,” said Baker. “I am proud to sign this legislation marking a remarkable statewide effort to strengthen prescribing laws and increase education for students and doctors. While there is still much work to be done, our administration is thankful for the legislature’s effort to pass this bill and looks forward to working with the Attorney General and our mayors to bend the trend and support those who have fallen victim to this horrific public health epidemic.”
This bill includes multiple provisions from Governor Baker’s legislation and is the first law in the nation to limit an opioid prescription to a 7-day supply for a first time adult prescriptions and a 7-day limit on every opiate prescription for minors, with certain exceptions. Other provisions from the Governor’s recommendations include a requirement that information on opiate-use and misuse be disseminated at annual head injury safety programs for high school athletes, requirements for doctors to check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) database before writing a prescription for a Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 narcotic and continuing education requirements for prescribers—ranging from training on effective pain management to the risks of abuse and addiction associated with opioid medications.
“Today Governor Baker signed into law an opioid bill that I was proud to support,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “This legislation makes Massachusetts the first in the country to limit opioid prescriptions, mandate opioid education for all medical and dental students, and expand and enforce usage of a statewide database system to monitor every opioid prescribed. While there is much more to be done, this is a major step forward in the fight against addiction.”
Several measures were also passed to empower individuals and update current prevention efforts. Patients will receive access to non-opiate directive forms and the option of partially filling opioid prescriptions in consultation with doctors and pharmacists. Schools must annually conduct verbal substance misuse screenings in two grade levels and collaborate with the Departments of Elementary and Second Education (DESE) and Public Health (DPH) around effective addiction education policies. To reduce the prevalence of unused medication, manufacturers of controlled substances in Massachusetts must participate in either a drug stewardship program or an alternative plan as determined by DPH.
The bill strengthens access to insurers and the bed-finder tool website–requiring patients receive information on FDA-approved medication-assisted therapies after being discharged from a substance use treatment program and ensuring civil-liability protection for individuals who administer Narcan.
“Substance abuse has devastated families across the Commonwealth. In Boston, we have taken a multi-pronged approach, working from every angle to promote prevention, offer treatment and provide recovery and support services,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “I applaud Governor Baker, Senate President Rosenberg, and Speaker DeLeo for passing this important legislation. Addiction is a powerful force, but this bill equips us with additional tools to reduce its impact in our communities.”
Gov. Charlie Baker signs landmark opioid abuse legislation that will limit an opioid prescription to a 7-day supply.
Mayor Martin Walsh applauds Gov. Baker and his administration for the signing the bill.