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Since announcing his landmark legislation to help stem the tide of the opioid epidemic, Governor Charlie Baker has found support from Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the law enforcement community and more. In short, the Baker-Polito Administration’s proposal would limit first time opioid prescriptions to a 72-hour supply (with emergency and chronic pain exceptions, among others), grant medical professionals the authority to involuntarily commit an individual for treatment for 72 hours if they pose a danger to themselves or others, and strengthens prescription monitoring and substance training for practitioners. (Click here to read more.)

On October 27, Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh sent a joint letter to members of the Massachusetts State Legislature asking for swift action on the bill:

“The epidemic of opioid addiction sweeping through our cities and towns shows no mercy and we consider the initiatives in this bill to be significant tools in combating this unprecedented crisis. We need bold action to bend the trend in opioid deaths.”

Both administrations have made progress to combat opioid addiction, including numerous reforms implemented by the Governor’s Opioid Working Group to allocate more than $114 million in spending for substance use prevention, education and treatment, increased bulk purchasing of Narcan in municipalities.

This year, Mayor Walsh announced the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services, the first-ever municipal-based office to focus on this issue, and he was named Chair of a new national Task Force on Substance Abuse, Prevention and Recovery Services by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The Task Force will focus on the impact of substance abuse and addiction on cities and work on effective recovery services strategies and approaches.

The sheriff of one of the state’s most heavily populated counties, as reported by the State House News Service, offered enthusiastic support of Gov. Baker’s opioid plan. “I support the governor’s bill … because he is taking the lead like no one has in trying to do something,” Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian told WCAP-AM, a Merrimack Valley radio station. “He’s tired of working around the edges. He wants to go right to the heart of the matter and see if he can make a difference.”

In mid-October, Governor Baker, HHS Secretary Sudders and EOPPS Secretary Bennett sat down with several members of the Massachusetts law enforcement community to gauge support for the proposed legislation to reform the state’s efforts on issues of opioid abuse. The feedback was resoundingly positive.

The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association gave their wholehearted support of Governor Baker and these efforts. Walpole Police Chief Michael J. Carmichael, head of the association, acknowledged that this crisis is not just a law enforcement problem, and “is going to take everyone working together to solve it.” The proposed initiatives are powerful tools for law enforcement in combatting the epidemic.

Echoing Chief Carmichael’s words, Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, wrote recently that the legislation is “transformative” because it is “an attempt to change a culture in which opioid abuse has historically been treated more as a matter of criminal justice than public health.”

Opioid_Police_003Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan commended the Governor’s proposal for addressing the problem at the grass roots, beginning with the prescribers. Noting an obligation as a society to help people save their lives, Sullivan said the bill is a reasonable measure to help citizens get the help they need in a timely way.

Governor Baker’s legislation goes directly after the cause of this epidemic: prescription painkillers. “Those prescriptions are behind America’s addiction epidemic,” wrote MetroWest Daily News columnist Rick Holmes on Oct. 25. “They are used, shared and abused. And when the people in their grip can’t get or can’t afford any more, they turn to heroin.”

“This crisis started in the doctor’s office, and federal and state policymakers are now turning to the doctors, and other medical professionals, to play a greater role in ending it.”

You can count State Rep. Linda Campbell of Methuen among the supporters of Governor Baker’s bill: “The governor’s plan to civilly commit those suffering from overdose to 72 hours of medical treatment is a sound idea to our police officers and firefighters, who sometimes revive and save addicts several times, only to find them dead from overdose a short while later.”

“As I tell people, ‘Would you rather have your child or your loved one involuntarily committed to a hospital bed or to spend time with me in a prison bed or to otherwise being laid down in a coffin?’ Because quite honestly the other two are going to happen – if you are that sick and you might need to be actually involuntarily held you actually are on that track to be imprisoned and to die and that’s something that I’ve seen family after family.” – Sheriff Koutoujian

Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh noted the dedication of legislators to fighting this epidemic in their letter calling for swift action: “We stand with you and appreciate your dedication to fighting this epidemic. The effort demands aggressive and carefully considered actions.”


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