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Governor Signs Opioid Law

On Monday, March 14, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law landmark legislation addressing the Commonwealth’s opioid epidemic. Joining the governor were members of the legislature, law enforcement, health care providers, community leaders, individuals in recovery and others.

“I want to thank you all for sharing your stories,” Governor Baker said in his opening remarks, speaking to those in attendance in recovery and from families touched by tragedy. “May today’s bill passage signal to you that the Commonwealth is listening, and we will keep fighting for all of you.”

The bill, titled An Act relative to substance use, treatment, education and prevention, passed unanimously in both chambers of the legislature. Adapted from Governor Baker’s initial legislation, this groundbreaking bill is the first in the nation to set a seven day limit on opioid prescriptions.

“This legislation contains many of the key provisions that we outlined in our bill that we released last October,” Governor Baker said Monday. “It places a limit on first time prescriptions: seven days for adults, and a seven day limit on every opiate prescribed for minors, unless certain exceptions apply. This is the first law in the nation to limit an opioid prescription, and I hope other states consider pursuing something similar.”

Other provisions from the Governor’s recommendations include requiring prescribers to check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) database before writing a prescription for a Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 narcotic, providing information regarding opiate use and misuse at annual head injury safety programs for high school athletes and their parents, and continuing education requirements for prescribers.

Read more about the law.

“One of my first conversations with the governor was about addiction and recovery. We spoke about, ‘How do we battle this issue?’ Because whether it’s Dorchester or Swampscott or Western Mass, wherever it is in Massachusetts, it doesn’t matter. It goes back to being a family disease,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh during the signing event. “And he said ‘I’m gonna be bold here and I’m gonna take some chances,’ he said, ‘will you stand with me?’ And I said ‘absolutely, governor.’ And then he turned to the Attorney General, he said ‘will you stand with me?’ And she said ‘absolutely, governor.’”

Opioid Bill Signing 03.14.2016Several officials spoke on the bill’s implications for shifting the paradigm of understanding opioid addiction more broadly.

“I’m proud that here in Massachusetts we’ve turned a very big corner,” said Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. “This problem used to be seen as a crime. It is now understood to be a disease. A disease that’s experienced by people in every corner of the Commonwealth no matter the color of their skin, their background, their economic circumstances.”

“[The legislation] is a key step in understanding addictions as an illness, and not a lack of willpower,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. In November, Governor Baker helped kickoff a statewide media campaign with the bold goal of making Massachusetts a #StateWithoutStigMA, saying. “Addiction is a chronic illness, not a moral failure.” Studies show that stigmas can prevent people from getting into treatment—holding them back from recovery, stability and success, and the campaign is another effort to bend the trend and change the way we think about opioid misuse and addiction.

Other officials expressed sympathy for the residents affected by this harrowing epidemic, and praised the administration and the legislature for their bipartisan effort to pass this legislation.

“This bill represents a true collaboration between public officials, providers and individuals courageously battling substance addiction,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

“We have not seen and we will not see a more comprehensive, a more thoughtful, a more game-changing piece of legislation in this entire country,” said Attorney General Maura Healey.

This bill marks the fifth piece of legislation signed by Governor Baker to fight the urgent opioid epidemic, which currently claims nearly 4 lives in Massachusetts daily. In addition to the Fiscal Year 2016 budget and supplemental budget, Governor Baker has signed legislation to prohibit the civil commitment of women facing substance use disorders at MCI-Framingham, as well as a fentanyl trafficking bill making trafficking in more than 10 grams of fentanyl a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

“Ridding our communities of substance misuse and addiction will take more than one bill, one budget, one program…It is going to require constant, aggressive teamwork from Beacon Hill to our communities,” Governor Baker concluded his remarks with. “Our administration will continue implementing recommendations from our Working Group, and finding new ways to pursue treatment, recovery and education for all.”

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