HCN News & Notes

Mass. Medical Society Expands Advocacy on Opioid Crisis

WALTHAM — With the opioid epidemic continuing to grow as a public-health epidemic, physicians of the Mass. Medical Society have expanded their advocacy in response to the crisis by adopting additional policies at their recent annual meeting.

The new policies on opioids address five areas. Physicians voted to advocate for a pilot supervised injection facility program in the state, to be under the direction and oversight of the state; promote standing orders for the narcotic-overdose drug naloxone by physicians and encourage private and public insurers to include the drug on its preferred drug list with minimal or no cost sharing; advocate for access to medication-assisted treatments for state and county prisoners with opioid-use disorder; urge the establishment and expansion of needle-exchange programs; and reaffirm and amend existing policy to state that the society recognizes addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease and will work to increase access to services for individuals with substance-use disorder.

Medically supervised safe injection facilities (SIF) are a harm-reduction strategy that have been associated with declines in serious illness and disease, including HIV and hepatitis C. The new policy urging the creating of a pilot SIF includes advocating for an exemption from federal drug laws for the program and pursuing state legislation to legalize the pilot SIF. The policy also recommends including an advisory board of experts to design evaluation protocols for the pilot and consideration of additional harm-reduction measures such as counseling and referral, to ensure comprehensive care is available to those with substance-use disorder.