State House News Service

Opiate Abuse Stirs Gov. Patrick To Declare Public Health Emergency

BOSTON — Declaring a public health emergency, Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday outlined steps to address an opioid addiction epidemic, including an immediate ban on one drug and the commitment of $20 million to increase drug treatment and recovery services.

“We have an epidemic of opiate abuse in Massachusetts, so we will treat it like the public health crisis it is,” Patrick said in a statement that followed testimony earlier in the week from Senate President Therese Murray who described a rise in reported overdose deaths as a “new normal” and recommended a series of public responses.

Patrick is directing state public health authorities to implement an immediate ban on the prescribing and dispensing of any hydrocodone-only formulation, commonly known as Zohydro, with the administration saying it poses “significant risk to individuals already addicted to opiates and to the public at large.” The ban would last until authorities determine measures are in pace to “safeguard against the potential for diversion, overdose and misuse.”

Other directives include:

– Permission for first responders to carry and administer Naloxone, known as Narcan, a so-called opioid antagonist that can prevent deaths in overdose cases. State officials also announced Narcan will be made available through prescriptions in pharmacies so it will be available to individuals who fear a loved one might overdose.

– A Department of Public Health mandate that physicians and pharmacies use prescription monitoring to guard against abuse or misuse of prescriptions. The program has been voluntary.

– Requiring an expanded Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention to make recommendations in 60 days on further actions that can be taken.

– Issuance of a public health advisory to educate the public about opioid addiction treatment options.

“These actions will help slow the rise of this dangerous addiction,” Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said in a statement. “Together, these steps will raise awareness in our communities, help save loved ones who tragically fall down from their disease and build important bridges to long-term recovery.”

Patrick’s directives were released with supportive statements from top House and Senate officials.

Murray has created a special committee to address the problem and this week testified that Plymouth Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Young, only a week after the department decided to begin equipping firefighters with Narcan, saved a 20-year-old man who had overdosed on opiates.

Saying the ages of those using opioids are getting “younger and younger,” Murray also applauded students at Plymouth North High School for producing a documentary on the dangers of addiction.


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  • Lawrence

    The abuse begins with Drs prescriptions. And of course now some hospitals have half of all newborns addicted to these substances, sometimes as a result of Drs. prescribing meds for Big Pharma. READ ON:

    In one neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Tennessee,
    almost half of the babies are going through withdrawal from prescription
    pills, ABC News reports.

    Most of the babies are going through withdrawal from painkillers.
    The average cost is $53,000 per baby.

    In some cases, prenatal exposure to drugs may occur because the
    mother abuses heroin or other illicit substances, or because she is
    receiving addiction treatment with methadone or buprenorphine. But more
    and more infants are being affected by exposure in the womb to
    prescription painkillers, the AAP noted.

  • Michael Schubert

    This Governor is going to leave oxymorphone, eight times more potent than hydrocodone, on the market and try to ban Zohydro? What is the thinking behind this? Besides, a state cannot ban a federally approved medicine. This would cost the state BILLIONS in financial remuneration to Zogenix for lost sales, plus defemation suits, atty fees, etc. Learn about the class of medicines before you decide to ban the least potent opiate on the market and make yourself look foolish while costing your state billions to Zogenix.

  • rkean

    The Governor and the leadership at the State House have cut funding for drug treatment in recent years to balance the state budget. And the so-called Democrats in the state house leadership quashed a plan by the Governor to increase revenue and make Massachusetts tax code less regressive, explaining that they did this for Massachusetts families. Right. It’s hard to believe that increased funding today won’t be ended when the Speaker of the House and the Senate President come under pressure from their corporate/big business supporters next budget cycle.

  • Michael Schubert

    Ban hydrocodone, the weakest opiate on the market, while leaving oxymorphone, fentanyl, morphine and methadone available?? None of those meds have tamper-resistance and are many times MORE POTENT, MUCH cheaper and readily available than Zohydro. Makes zero sense. Absolutely none whatsoever. What does this guy want, pain patients to take STRONGER medicines so they can’t work or function in life? There is no alternative to Zohydro for many patients

  • intuition

    Thank Govener Deval Patrick,A Reality check… his need to HELP this city or at least offer MORE ways for people that fell victim to the Devil. If you undestand this sad reality, or not. If your Dr.s would STOP so Freeley ready to perscribe any person that has a “boo boo” or life debilitating pain…those drugs that is taken legally for more than 21 days is now addicted…weather they No it or Not but there Bodies now will NEED the same band aid to mantain life with out pain or in some cases people that play the card of how much “pain” they are in or NOT in..Theres a reason Why you have to WEEN down to “get off” the perscription..legally or illegally the human body reacts the same and some worse than others but the body becomes sick, and flu symptoms occur and not able to figure out WHY they cant function the same or they know and its to late…less perscriptions Docters can refraib from giving out as easily as it has been in the past years..Im sure almost * All of you * know some one, thats “addicted” to some kind of drug that may not have begun with a street drug-but wound up that way or Worse DEAD!! It could be a Friend, Family member, co-worker, teacher, parent or perhaps the person in the mirror… Bottom line for those whom are quick to lable or snicker Not knowing how the person could make such bad decisions. Or so shocked when a person divulges a similar story, and never thought “that person” could have that problem. Blue or white collard Dr. degreed professional can have the same issue. Addiction can affect any one…some have the ability to hide or easy ways of accsessing the legal forms. Yes ever ones responsible for there OWN actions. If its to late and addiction has set in already.. More Ways to help or educate a person suffering or more resources to help if a loved one shows symtoms and your cluless how to help…..Now this matter in nh is an URGENT MATTER. Its apparent that this state has covered to many deaths and has become the- Norm- has been long over due. Thank God, Finnally after all the rising deaths and sugar coated casualties in each family. that has loved ones or a close person they can relate the senerio too. ENOUGH IS Enough!! Dont let people fool you, Addiction does not come in only drug form..When somone is quick to judge she/he or ignorently state, “They come from a good family,andmust be those poor people!” If think they are above that and dont have adfiction in there family– Turn off any further comments or advise they may have. F.Y.I.thats coming from the mouth of a 300lb. Man…..(obviously food, would be his Drug)..just the same with sex addicts or any type of unfortunate obstacle that needs to be treated professionally..Addiction has sky rocketed in our state..Its about time Educate the public and offer more ways to help Any HELP that is Available for Any addiction. WHEN the END result is DEATH!!! Its about time this small state opens there eyes and takes the problem head on, rather than turning a blind eye. Dont judge or pas judgement, it could be someone you love or know. Funerals are to late to say you wish you knew or saw sighns but had no clue!! Sad reality check…thats the TRUTH~ more ways to help people that Want it. On both ends has been well over do!!!! Educate Help awareness and more ways to help people that WANT a second chance to get back on track………

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