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Law enforcement leaders gave a hearty endorsement of Gov. Charlie Baker's approach to curbing the opioid abuse epidemic on Thursday, throwing their weight behind the bill that has drawn push-back from doctors and other medical professionals.
Baker met for over an hour in his office Thursday afternoon with about a dozen police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorney's to discuss his plan, which includes a recommendation to limit physicians from prescribing to new patients more than a 72-hour supply of an opioid
Baker also wants doctors to be allowed to hold patients for up to 72 hours for substance abuse treatment without seeking a court order for an involuntary commitment if the patient presents a risk to themselves or others.
Asked about the suggestion from the Massachusetts Medical Society and others that the involuntary commitment provision could become a deterrent to people seeking treatment, Baker said "not one person" in the health care community he has spoken to has expressed that concern.
Neither Baker nor Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders have spoken yet to the MMS about the bill, but both said conversations were ongoing with stakeholders.
"It's up to all of us in the Commonwealth to address this problem and it starts with prescribers," Northwest District Attorney David Sullivan said.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said "me and the mayor" are behind Baker's legislation, aside from "maybe one or two issues," and Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael said he "wholeheartedly supports" the governor's efforts to fight addiction, which he said has evolved to the point that it is "not a law enforcement problem" anymore.
"I don't know how we can lock people up and solve this problem," Evans said, echoing Carmichael.
Baker said he was encouraged that the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, to which his bill was referred, has scheduled a hearing in November for his bill, and said he'd like to see action in a "reasonably short period of time."
Sudders also said that anecdotal evidence of people treating Narcan, the overdose-reversing drug, as a crutch to support their addictions only reinforces the administration's argument for allowing doctors to hold patients for treatment, rather than just releasing them back to the streets after they've been revived.
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