Docs Group Encouraged By Redraft Of Opioid Bill

After voicing criticism of the two major provisions in Gov. Charlie Baker’s opioid abuse prevention bill, the state’s main doctor advocacy group offered its initial support Tuesday for the House’s redrafted version of the legislation that softened proposals for prescription limits and involuntary hospitalization.

The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee on Monday night opened a poll of its members on the redrafted legislation that would limit first-time opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply, instead of the governor’s recommended three days.

The committee’s bill also scraps Baker’s proposal to allow doctors to hold patients who present in acute care settings with substance abuse issues for up to 72 hours against their will, similar to the civil commitment law for mental health patients. Instead, Rep. Elizabeth Malia has recommended that all patients admitted for opioid overdoses undergo a mandatory substance abuse evaluation within 24 hours prior to discharge.

“The legislation strikes a fine balance between the critical need to reduce opioid overdoses with the imperative to effectively and responsibly treat pain. We thank the House for taking into consideration some of the commentary on opioid bills that has been provided by the MMS, as well as the concerns of clinicians who address the issues of addiction and pain management on a daily basis,” the Massachusetts Medical Society said in a statement.

MMS President Dennis Dimitri testified before the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee in November, recommending the seven-day limit on opioid prescriptions to first-time patients as a compromise to Baker’s call for 72-hour limits.

Dimitri also said there was little proof that forced hospitalization would be successful in getting patients who didn’t want treatment to seek help, and could worsen emergency room overcrowding.

Members of the House substance abuse committee have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday to vote on the new legislation.

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