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Mass. Senate To Debate Opioid Abuse Prevention Bill

This article is more than 3 years old.

Amid a sharp uptick in opioid-related deaths, the state Senate on Thursday takes up a bill aimed at preventing opioid abuse.

Key provisions of the bill include implementing screenings of seventh and 10th graders for signs of addiction. As advocates push for the focus on prevention to start as early as middle school, some Massachusetts schools began piloting the screening process. This bill would take it statewide.

The legislation also encourages doctors to utilize alternative pain management, and focuses on making doctors aware of potential dangers when prescribing high-risk painkillers to their patients.

Gov. Charlie Baker says the state is working with the medical profession to avoid over-prescribing.

"This idea that you write prescriptions for 30 or 60 days, or give somebody 50, 60, 70, 80 Percocets, for something that's an acute incident, just doesn't make sense to me at all," Baker said to reporters Wednesday.

The governor says if the message to doctors to not over-prescribe isn't getting through, perhaps it's time to enact a law.

Baker has indicated that he'll file additional legislation to help fight substance abuse this fall.

The bill up for debate Thursday also urges insurance companies to put together a plan to cover non-opioid treatments and which would allow patients to limit their own access to addictive drugs.

New Mandates Take Effect

The push to focus on education and prevention in this bill comes after the Legislature passed legislation in 2014 that was aimed at improving access to treatment. Mandates as a result of that bill went into effect Thursday.

One mandate requires health plans to "provide coverage for medically necessary acute treatment services and medically necessary clinical stabilization services for at least 14 consecutive days. Medical necessity is to be determined by the treating clinician in consultation with the patient."

This mandate changes who determines the appropriate length of treatment for a patient — placing the decision with doctors, instead of insurance companies.

With reporting by WBUR's Steve Brown and Amy Gorel 

Clarification: This post was updated to clarify the new mandates that went into effect Thursday. 

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