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Safe Injection Site Pilot Is Included In State Senate Opioid Bill

In this 2017 photo, a member of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections shows the drug Suboxone. (Charles Krupa/AP)
In this 2017 photo, a member of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections shows the drug Suboxone. (Charles Krupa/AP)

A powerful state Senate committee on Tuesday endorsed legislation giving those addicted to opioids new access to medically assisted treatment in prisons and creating harm-reduction sites for people to use drugs while advancing several other ideas to curb the deadly scourge.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee version of the bill in many ways follows the broad contours of legislation that the House passed unanimously last week. The bill would shift pharmacies over to electronic prescriptions, establish a standing order to make overdose-reversing medication available to well-meaning members of the public, and allow patients to fill part of a prescription and then go back to get the rest.

A Ways and Means poll on the bill closed early afternoon on Tuesday, and the bill was reported favorably, according to an aide.

On treatment in prison, the Senate Ways and Means bill goes further than the House, which required the Department of Public Health and the Department of Correction to develop a two-year pilot for medically assisted addiction treatment in prison.

The Senate Ways and Means bill requires prisons and sheriff-run correctional facilities to provide the same medically assisted addiction treatment to inmates behind bars as they received on the outside starting in January, according to a summary.

The following year those facilities would need to provide that type of treatment -- which can include administration of drugs like Vivitrol or Suboxone along with other therapies -- 30 days before releasing someone for whom that treatment would be medically appropriate. Starting in 2021, under the bill, the facilities would need to provide that type of treatment for anyone in custody for whom it is deemed medically appropriate.

Some advocates have appealed for sites where people addicted to intravenous drugs can more safely use the intoxicants. The Senate Ways and Means bill would create a harm reduction site pilot program to establish a so-called safe injection site that would be administered by the Department of Public Health.

Last year House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Gov. Charlie Baker expressed caution about the idea of so-called safe injection sites, which have support from the Massachusetts Medical Society.

A spokesman for Senate President Harriette Chandler did not say when the Senate would take up the matter or how it would be handled.

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