Baker Defends Opioid Bill, Says Crisis 'Requires Disruption'

Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday defended his proposed legislation to deal with the state's opioid crisis, and the package gained support from Massachusetts county sheriffs.

The bill -- which includes proposals to limit first prescriptions of pain pills to enough for 72 hours, and to allow doctors to involuntarily hold a substance abuse patient for 72 hours — has been criticized by doctors groups and been met with skepticism from some legislative leaders.

But Baker is standing by his plan. In a meeting with the New England Council on Monday, he said that Massachusetts needs to move more aggressively to deal with the opiate abuse crisis.

"This requires disruption," he said. "I don't want to be dealing with this issue where we're all talking about the success because the number of deaths, instead of going up 25 percent next year goes up only by 22 percent. And that means you have to chase this with some proposals that are controversial."

Many of the state's sheriffs are endorsing the governor's bill, and took their support to Beacon Hill Monday.

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, a Democrat, says opioid addiction is not a partisan issue, and the problem is plaguing the entire state.

"These go from the tony communities to the poorer communities, to the rural, to the urban communities. To white, and black and Latino, to everything, well educated to less educated, it hits us all," Koutoujian said.

The governor's bill gets a hearing before a legislative committee in a week.

With reporting by WBUR's Deborah Becker and Steve Brown


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