Reeling from a scourge of overdose fatalities, state health officials are finally enacting a law to try to curb heroin and other opioid addictions at their source.
Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill last Monday aimed at the menace that kills approximately four individuals a day in the state. Twelve years ago, some 300 people a year died from unintentional overdose. Today, with heroin being cheap and easy to find, the number is closer to 1,200.
The bill, approved unanimously by both chambers last week, takes specific steps designed to retard new possible cases of addiction, and treat those how already are, rather than the standard criminal prosecution.
Some of the highlights of the new law are:
- It places limits on opiate prescriptions, a move that will cut off the flow of powerfully addictive drugs into medicine cabinets across Massachusetts. Adults given opiates for the first time will be limited to seven-day prescriptions and all all opiate prescriptions for children will be limited to seven days. There will be exemptions for chronic pain sufferers.
- All opiate prescriptions must now be checked in the state’s prescription monitoring program by the medical professionals issuing the prescription in addition to the pharmacists filling it at the drugstore.
- Individuals in recovery or struggling with addiction can now voluntarily indicate in their public health records that they should not be prescribed opiates. Individuals who suffer from chronic pain and need opiates now have the option of receiving a “partial fill” of their prescription, an order that allows patients to receive a smaller dosage than the one recommended by their health care provider.
- Individuals admitted to an emergency room for an opioid overdose for 24 hours are now required to receive a substance abuse evaluation from a mental health professional before discharge. The emergency room patient in recovery is not required to follow the course of future treatment as prescribed by the mental health professional.