During a meeting with behavioral-health specialists and impacted community members on Friday, Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, expressed his interest in the need for urgent intervention regarding overwhelming amount of deaths caused by opiates. This might be the first time that these officials were summoned for a meeting with the governor regarding addiction issues, which highlights the seriousness of this national epidemic. The CEO and president for the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Vic DiGravio, was present at this meeting and stated that he thought that the governor showed anger regarding the current epidemic.
"I don't see it as anger, I see it as urgency," Baker responded, during a quick press conference that was given along with DiGravio, other professionals, and Learn to Cope (a non-profit that provides support and education to those who have loved ones who suffer from drug addiction. His urgency was clear as he clearly threw his support for a bill that will be put in front of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Monday morning. Baker plans to testify in support of this bill, which will place a three day limit on initial opiate prescriptions and allows physicians to place patients in a three day hold if they are presenting with an addiction.
This bill provides a high threshold for meeting the terms of involuntary treatment, and may help thousands of addicts who need treatment.
"The [current] choice is you are either going to purchase a casket and schedule a funeral home appointment, or you beg someone to take the time to help you get treatment for your loved ones," stated Joanne Peterson, the woman who founded Learn to Cope. She offered insight into this statement, telling reporters that involuntary commitment- through a process that is judicially sanctioned called Section 35- is what saved her son from certain death from his drug addiction. After his commitment, her son was able to return to his normal life and has been drug free and in recovery for most of a decade now.
This bill would increase regulation regarding opiate use, and is accompanied by other recent legislation. The Senate passed legislation in early October which did not have language regarding involuntary commitment provisions, instead focusing on the need for schools to screen their students for risky behavior while giving pharmacists increased ability to offer lesser amounts of addictive and dangerous pain killers. The House also passed a recent bill that heightens penalties for individuals or groups that are caught trafficking fentanyl, a power synthetic opiate that is being added to heroin or substituted for heroin with abusers knowledge.
Even with this measures, the Senate has yet to take a broader stance on opioid legislation and Baker take umbrage with this fact. He believes that it is far past the time to directly tackle this issue because it is impossible to fix such a momentous epidemic by working in the margins. His support for the new legislation stems from a desire to disrupt the current status quo that has created such an epidemic. The Governor stated that while many of these proposals are viewed as being disruptive to the public, "...that was kind of the point"