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40 Governors To Sign Pact To Combat Opioid Epidemic

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More than 40 governors are expected to sign a compact pledging to take steps to tackle the nation's deadly opioid epidemic, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's office announced Wednesday.

The compact was modeled after efforts implemented in Massachusetts, Baker's office said.

"With more lives lost every day, governors are redoubling their efforts to combat the epidemic with bold and thoughtful new strategies," the compact, from the the National Governor's Association, states.

The planned efforts include: taking steps to reduce opioid prescriptions; increasing public awareness and understanding about opioids and addiction; and bolstering access to recovery paths for people struggling with addiction.

To lessen the number of opioid prescriptions handed out, the NGA's pact calls for training prescribers on pain management and addiction. It also suggests state administrations integrate data from state prescription drug monitoring programs into electronic health records and reduce payment barriers to pain management alternatives to prescription opioids.

As has been done in Massachusetts, the pact recommends states launch educational initiatives in schools and communities and on social media to teach young people and others about the dangers of opioids. The compact says efforts will also be made to improve understanding of addiction as a disease among health care providers and law enforcement.

The NGA also released a report on July 7 detailing guidelines to help states respond to the health crisis.

This is the first time in at least a decade, Baker's office said in an email, that governors "have developed a compact through NGA to spur coordinated action on an urgent national issue."

The Republican governor, who is chair of the NGA's Health and Human Services Committee, signed a compromise bill into law in March that seeks to tackle the state's growing opioid crisis.

The law placed a seven-day limit on first-time opioid prescriptions and included new efforts to evaluate patients within 24 hours of an overdose.

There were 1,379 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts last year, an 8 percent increase over the number of confirmed deaths in 2014.

The NGA's members agreed to pursue a collective action plan in its annual winter meeting in February, and the body will review governors' progress implementing the recommended policies during its 2017 winter meeting.

With reporting by WBUR's Lisa Creamer

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