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Substance abuse bill passed by the Senate

Date: 10/9/2015

BOSTON – Sen. Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) voted in favor of a bipartisan substance abuse bill passed by the Senate that includes several provisions for addressing the opioid addiction crisis plaguing many parts of the Commonwealth.

“This legislation offers common-sense protocols to limit access to highly addictive pills, hold drug companies more accountable for the effects of prescription drugs, and stem the tide of opioid addiction,” Lesser said.

The opioid crisis has been one of Lesser’s top priorities since assuming office. He said he was particularly affected by a story from Maureen Rooney, a Ludlow resident whose son developed an addiction to OxyContin and eventually to heroin.

“As his mother, it has been heartbreaking to watch my sensitive, funny, bright child throw away a productive life to drugs,” Rooney said in written testimony.

Lesser also secured passage of an amendment he authored to further strengthen reporting and enforcement requirements for highly addictive prescription painkillers.

The Senate’s substance abuse bill was based on recommendations made by the Special Committee on Opioid Addiction, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Options, of which Senator Lesser is a member.

Key provisions in the legislation include:
• Allowing patients to file a medical directive to avoid receiving opiate painkillers;
• Granting doctors access to data comparing their prescribing practices to their peers;
• Requiring drug manufacturers to set up drug take-back programs;
• Supporting public education efforts on the risks and dangers of prescription drug addiction; and
• Requiring insurance carriers to develop alternative pain management options for patients and to make the information public.

Nearly 1,300 people in Massachusetts died of an unintentional opiate-related overdose last year, representing a nearly 60 percent increase since 2012. Opioids now kill more people in Massachusetts than car accidents and guns combined.

The bill will now head to the House for consideration.