4 New Bills to Fight Massachusetts Opiate Epidemic
Author: Justin Mckibben
With the death rates associated with the opiate epidemic in America being one of the leading causes of death in the nation, several states are doing everything they can to actively combat this mounting issue. The state of Massachusetts has taken a few actions recently to again try and stand against the drug problem.
State representatives in Massachusetts are currently advancing new legislation to combat the growing public health crisis, and this article includes a list of some of the bills awaiting passage in the legislature. All of these are still not yet passed into law, but many are beginning to rally behind these collective causes in hopes of a brighter future for the “Bay State” population.
- Protect Our Infants Act
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is when pregnant women take opiates and the baby is born dependent on the drug. Withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction occur shortly after birth.
The Protect Our Infants Act was designed to assist federal and state efforts to better diagnose NAS and treat it. The bill requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct research and coordinate efforts to help state agencies collect data on NAS.
U.S. Representative Katherine Clark is a Massachusetts Democrat who brought forth this new bill with the help of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky. Hopefully this bill will help doctors and health care experts better combat the disease of addiction at a very delicate stage and improve the quality of life for infants born into addiction.
- The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act
To sum up this legislation, we can quote the individual who introduced the bill: U.S. Democratic Senator Edward Markey from Massachusetts said in a statement:
“No one should be afraid to save a life because of a lawsuit,”
The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act would protect people who administer naloxone, a lifesaving opiate overdose reversal drug, from civil liability including:
- First responders
- Other trained individuals
It is designed to eliminate the threat of criminal or legal implications against the person who administers the drug to the individual who is overdosing. The bill was endorsed by several organizations, including:
- Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery
- Learn to Cope
- Association of Behavioral Healthcare
- Massachusetts Sheriff’s Association
- Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems
This makes a lot of sense, since many individuals are put in a position where they run the risk of legal action against them when it comes to the decision to either save someone who may die of an overdose of heroin or other opiates, or let them die because of the red-tape surrounding the antidote’s uses.
When looking at this, we also consider how there was a recent debate as to whether school nurses should be trained and allowed to administer naloxone to students, given that teens are at a high risk of drug abuse.
- National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Reauthorization
The National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) program, which funds states to maintain, improve, and expand prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) started in Massachusetts in 2005. But since then the program has not been reauthorized since 2010, so it has gone on for years without funding.
A bipartisan group of senators and representatives introduced a bill that would reauthorize this bill to receive the funding necessary to advance in the drug monitoring programs, which communicate across state lines to identify risk behavior and weed out unsavory statistics as far as prescription drug use.
- FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act
The FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act was created in light of the method by which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves drugs to be prescribed and sold, and is designed to provide additional checks and balances for the process.
There have been times where the FDA has approved medications despite reservations about the safety of the drug. In instances like this, senators argue that this bill would establish a buffer between consumers and potentially dangerous opioid medications by making it significantly more difficult for the FDA to override an advisory committee of experts when it comes to approving opioid drugs.
It seems that with these bills, Massachusetts politicians are looking to aggressively attack the opiate addiction crisis that is currently ravaging their communities. There have been other programs set in motion recently in the area to fight stigma and address addiction with treatment instead of punishment. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr recently proposed allocating $100,000 to the revolutionary anti-punishment program the town Gloucester, Massachusetts agreed on, which would begin the process of influencing the change in drug policy toward providing treatment alternatives to struggling addicts.
If nothing changes, then nothing changes. The hope here is that a little bit of change can make a huge difference for a community stricken with the devastation of addiction. While policies pursue change, we as individuals have to pursue change for ourselves, and it all starts with a decision to get help.
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