Sen. Eric Lesser Votes With Senate to Pass Opioid Abuse Prevention Bill

Sen. Lesser voted with the Senate today to pass a unanimous, bipartisan bill aimed at stemming the Commonwealth’s opioid abuse crisis through intervention, treatment, prevention and education. The legislation is one of the strongest opioid addiction prevention bills in the country. “This bill takes a comprehensive, holistic approach to addressing our Commonwealth’s devastating opioid epidemic, which is taking a toll on every Massachusetts community,” Sen. Lesser said. “I’m confident this legislation will make a tangible difference in preventing addiction and overdose deaths, improving access to treatment and uniting the entire healthcare ecosystem to battle this public health crisis.”

The bill passed by a unanimous, bipartisan vote and aims to stem the Commonwealth’s opioid crisis, which leaves about 100 Massachusetts residents dead every month.

Among its key provisions, the bill:

  • limits first-time opioid prescriptions for adults to a seven-day supply, with exceptions for patients with cancer or chronic pain or for palliative care.
  • requires that patients admitted to the emergency room for an overdose be evaluated for substance abuse disorders within 24 hours before discharge
  • requires pharmaceutical companies to participate in a five-year drug stewardship program to collect and dispose of highly addictive narcotics
  • establishes verbal screening in schools to identify students who are addicted or at risk of addiction to drugs. Students and parents would have the option to opt out.
  • grants a Good Samaritan protection from civil lawsuits for anyone who administers the anti-overdose drug naloxone (Narcan) to someone suspected of overdosing
  • allows patients the option to fill an opioid prescription for an amount less than what was prescribed, making the rest of the prescription void
  • requires health care providers to check the Commonwealth’s Prescription Monitoring Program each time an addictive opioid is prescribed, give patients information about the dangers of opioid addiction when a drug is prescribed and dispensed, and receive training about substance abuse and safe prescribing practices.
  • incorporates education about opioid addiction into annual high school sports training and driver education.
  • enables patients to voluntarily opt out of being prescribed opioid drugs and to have that preference noted in their medical records

The bill cleared the House unanimously on Wednesday after being worked on by a six-member House-Senate negotiating committee during the past several months. It will now be sent to Gov. Charlie Baker to be signed into law.

Sen. Lesser has made the opioid crisis one of his top legislative priorities since assuming office in January 2015. He is the only Western Massachusetts legislator appointed to the Senate Special Committee on Opioid Addiction Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Options, which participated in drafting the law passed today.

In November 2015, Sen. Lesser worked with fellow legislators, local officials and community leaders to secure approval for a new specialty drug court in Springfield, to be opened later this year, which will significantly expand local access to substance abuse treatment.

To help cities and towns afford the anti-overdose drug Narcan, Sen. Lesser authored a bill that became the basis of a new law establishing the Narcan Bulk Purchasing Program, which launched in Dec. 2015. Several Western Massachusetts communities now participate in the program.

Sen. Lesser also authored a provision, signed by Governor Baker last July, which reduces the length of time pharmacies must report to the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) from 7 days to 24 hours. This change was recommended by the Department of Public Health to assist in faster identification of pharmacy shopping, or the practice of filling drug prescriptions at multiple pharmacies at once for purposes of abuse.

Press ReleaseEric Lesser