State targets gaps in opioid-abuse treatment plans


Gov. Charlie Baker is pushing new measures to combat the opioid crisis, including making an overdose-halting drug available over the counter, in a move to address what he called “big gaps and problems” in the state’s landmark addiction legislation passed 18 months ago.

In a bill filed yesterday, Baker said he wants to help medical workers get addicts into treatment, develop standards for treatment programs and recovery coaches, compile data on what treatments work, increase access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, and invest $2 million in an educational trust fund for intervention programs.

The bill would let medical workers and police offi­cers involuntarily send an addict at “risk of serious harm” to a treatment program for 72 hours.

Baker, who signed a major opioid bill in March 2016, outlined the state’s recent progress in cutting prescriptions for the addictive painkillers by 29 percent and reducing overdose deaths by 10 percent during the first nine months of the year.

“Let’s face it, no one here — and certainly I don’t think anybody in Massachusetts — is going to view this as ‘Mission Accomplished,’ ” Baker said. “You have to stay on it over time, which is part of the reason we are back here filing legislation to deal with what we perceive as some of the big gaps and problems with where we didn’t chase opportunities on our first shot at this.”

Baker said one of his goals is to promote standards, data and research for addiction treatment so it’s treated in the medical world like other serious diseases or public health emergencies.

“There’s clearly a gap here with respect to the after-care piece. It’s not credentialed properly. It’s not certified properly. It’s not paid for. We don’t collect data on it,” Baker said. “We’d never accept that in cancer or heart disease or congestive heart failure or diabetes or other forms of illness. Yet we accept it here.”

The Baker administration wants to take advantage of the opioid emergency declaration to petition the federal government for other changes.

The state also wants to make naloxone available over the counter, to boost access to methadone and other medication-assisted treatments, to approve rapid urine fentanyl tests, to use claims data for public policy research, and to fill abuse-deterrent formulations of opioids.

The Baker administration on its own is pushing new education programs to combat drug-use…



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