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Governor Baker with Mass. Dental School Deans

Early in the Administration’s first year, Governor Baker announced the initial steps of his plan to combat the Commonwealth’s growing opioid addiction crisis, including the creation of a 16-member Opioid Addiction Working Group tasked with creating a statewide strategy for combatting addiction. Since then, the Baker-Polito administration has been working to implement the Working Group’s recommendations, including filing legislation aimed at mitigating the epidemic. Opioid and heroin overdoses claim the lives of nearly four Massachusetts residents each day.

Key representatives from all three Massachusetts schools of dental medicine sat on the Governor’s Working Group on Dental Education on Prescription Drug Misuse and on Thursday, February 11, in partnership with those schools and the Massachusetts Dental Society, Governor Baker announced a new set of dental education standards. As a major portion of the state’s opioid prescribers, dentists play a crucial role in addressing the addiction epidemic.

“As a dentist may be the first person a patient sees where strong medications are needed for pain, it is of utmost importance that the clinician understands the significance of assessing that patient for substance misuse risk, while still needing to effectively treat their pain,” said Tufts University School of Medicine Dean Huw Thomas, Co-Chair of the Governor’s Dental Education Working Group. “It is only through sound dental educational programs and standards that a thorough appreciation of an effective treatment regimen can be established.”

The set of “core competencies” developed by the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Dental Society and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, will be required for the more than 1,800 undergraduates and 550 graduate students studying dentistry in the Commonwealth.

The competencies will dictate an enhanced level of education in order to help promote an individualized approach to treatment and prevention of prescription substance misuse. 

“Substance misuse is a chronic disease, and we must treat it as one, starting with education of our clinicians,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel Thursday. “We must approach the treatment of this disease taking into account the multiple needs of the individual, not just substance misuse.”

This announcement comes after last November’s partnership with medical school deans to enact a similar set of core competencies governing medical education in the Commonwealth. Like the dental standards, these are cross-institutional, and ensure medical students of all levels receive enhanced training in primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention strategies regarding prescription drug misuse.

Both sets of core competencies are first of their kind among American medical and dental schools, paving the way for similar programs nationwide.

“These educational standards represent an innovative and forward-thinking contribution to the state’s multi-faceted strategy to curb the opioid epidemic,” said Governor Baker in November. “Massachusetts is again setting a new standard by providing our medical [and dental] students with a strong foundation in treating those with substance use disorders.”

Since taking office, the Baker-Polito Administration has made significant budget investments, enacted numerous reforms from the Working Group’s recommendations and Governor Baker has signed three pieces of legislation (including most recently ending the practice of sending civilly committed women to MCI Framingham).

To date:

  • 21 initiatives fully implemented
  • 24 initiatives currently being implemented
  • In both of our budgets, we’ve invested over $250 MM toward the opioid epidemic:
    • $114 MM in FY16 spending for substance use disorders
    • $140 MM in this year’s budget for education, prevention and treatment
    • Additional $27.8M approved in the supplemental budget
  • Added additional treatment capacity including: 69 Acute Treatment Service beds, 23 Clinical Stabilization Service beds, 81 Adult residential recovery home beds as well as 5 office-based opioid treatment programs.
  • Implemented the bulk-purchasing program, which permits 1st responder agencies to purchase naloxone for $20 per dose.
  • Produced and disseminated quarterly reporting of overdose data.
  • Complete overhaul of Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) underway to improve ease of use and connectivity to surrounding state’s PMPs.
  • Opened 5th new recovery high school in Worcester
  • Created and launched two major media/awareness campaigns – Stop Addiction and State without Stigma.
  • Introduced landmark legislation, Act Relative to Substance Use Treatment, Education and Prevention on October 15 (STEP Act).

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