HCN News & Notes

Death Toll from Opioid Abuse Continues to Rise in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The death toll from opioids in Massachusetts continues to rise unabated despite months of intensifying efforts to combat the substance-abuse crisis, the Boston Globe reported.

Estimates from the state Department of Public Health show that 684 deaths resulted from opioid overdoses during the first half of 2015, an increase of 6{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} from the same period last year.

Gov. Charlie Baker recently unveiled legislation to provide medical personnel with the power to intervene with patients suffering from addiction, control the spread of addictive prescription opioids, and increase education about substance-use disorder for providers and in the community.

The bill calls for new requirements for practitioners, educators, and communities and amends the civil-commitment statute to specify that women committed for substance-use treatment may be sent to new secure treatment units approved by the departments of Public Health and Mental Health. Further, medical professionals will be granted the authority to involuntarily commit an individual for treatment for 72 hours if they pose a danger to themselves or others.

The legislation contains a provision limiting patients to a 72-hour supply the first time they are prescribed an opioid or when they are prescribed an opioid from a new doctor. Practitioners will also be required to always check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to prescribing an opioid to a patient, and will be required to fulfill five hours of training on pain management and addiction every two years.