Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Press Release - House Passes Legislation to Combat Substance Abuse Epidemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                    
July 2, 2014                                                                                                          

House Passes Legislation to Combat Substance Abuse Epidemic
Includes Several Measures to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse and Save Lives

(BOSTON) – State Representative Thomas Golden joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives in voting unanimously to pass a bill that will increase access to substance abuse treatment as well as create several measures to combat the current epidemic.

The bill aims to increase access to treatment by requiring all insurance plans in the Commonwealth to cover acute treatment services, clinical stabilization, and medical detox for at least ten days.  Patients will be able to access treatment without first having to obtain prior authorization.  Additionally, licensed drug and alcohol counselors will be added to the list of covered specialists to allow providers to bill insurers for their services. 

“This legislation is the first step in quelling the rise in substance addiction that is devastating the lives of people across the Commonwealth,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “The bill provides the foundation for sustainable improvement by increasing access to care and changing the way we monitor and respond to unprecedented public health crises like the one we’re currently confronting.”

The bill creates several measures to combat abuse, including a provision to ensure access and utilization of abuse-deterrent pain medications.  These medications are specially engineered to be more difficult to abuse.  The bill expands the Drug Formulary Commission and requires them to recommend a list of abuse-deterrent, chemically-equivalent substitutions for opiates.

“Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in our communities and we need to do more to battle this,” said Rep. Golden.  “This bill will make it more difficult for those to abuse medications and will also prevent drugs from being altered for use other than prescribed.  Technologies and products are on the market today that prevent someone from crushing, cutting, grinding, or abusing opiates.  The DEA and others in law enforcement will attest that medications with abuse-deterrent properties are making a difference in helping combat abuse.  This bill would ensure that they are accessible and utilized.  It will save lives in our communities and our state.”

The bill also authorizes the Department of Public Health (DPH) to create a list of prescription drop boxes and other safe locations where people can dispose of excess prescription drugs.

“Education about prescription abuse is critical,” Rep. Golden added.  “People need to know how important it is to take their medications as directed, store them securely, and properly dispose of them when no longer needed.”

Finally, the bill authorizes DPH to temporarily categorize a substance as “schedule I” on an emergency basis to avoid imminent hazard to public safety or to preserve public health.   

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