Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Senate Supplements Priorities in Funding Bill

Tomorrow, the Senate will take up a bill, Senate 2025, which will fund significant state government programs and advance a number of public policy priorities.  The $341 million proposal reflects a series of items first initiated by Governor Baker in order to fulfill functions outlined in the state budget such as training at the Department of Children and Families, final payments for contractors who cleared last winter’s snow and ice, and initiatives for public health and public safety.

MassHealth will receive $203 million to address shortfalls and to expand substance abuse coverage.

Other substance abuse related programs funded by the bill:
  • $300,000 for the Trial Court to hire a project coordinator to oversee coordination, administration and financial oversight of the sequential intercept model project,
  • $15.2 million to fund substance abuse and residential beds and school-based substance use screenings,
  • $1.2 million for verbal substance use screening,
  • $5.8  million for a substance use treatment program to provide detoxification and clinical services for civilly committed women with substance use disorders at Taunton State Hospital,
  • $3.8 million to fund substance abuse counselors in schools.
In addition, other major areas of funding include:
  • $31.5 million for snow and ice removal costs for Mass Department of Transportation,
  • $21.7 million to close deficiencies in ten Sheriff Departments,
  • $3 million to fund Department of Children and Families training services for foster families and adoptive families and congregate care and adoption support services,
  • $5 million to support homelessness diversion, prevention and housing stabilization programs,
  • $9.5 million for National Guard student tuition and fees reimbursements,
The bill makes a $120,000,000 deposit into the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund and revives a special commission charged with examining housing and shelter options for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus and I have offered several amendments to the bill to provide assistance to municipalities, low-income families, and health patients, these include:
  • Providing cities and town with $20 million in additional Local Aid payments for essential services,
  • Creating a two year pilot program to examine ways to qualify patients needing extended hospital stays to be covered under Federal Medicare,
  • Requiring the Department of Public Health to seek approval from the federal government to allow those who receive WIC benefits to use them on diapers for children. Currently, families receiving WIC cannot use the benefits to purchase diapers,
  • Protecting businesses against patent infringement threats, known as patent trolling,
  • Providing low-income households with $10 million in heating assistance, 
  • Requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to conduct a feasibility study before adopting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness (PARCC) standardized test, in place of the MCAS including procedures required to repeal the 2010 decision of the board to adopt the PARCC standards.  
  • Promoting compliance with the health care cost transparency law which requires health insurers to provide patients with accurate pricing information.
The text of the bill can be read by clicking this link:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Senate Passes Opiate Addiction Prevention Bill

Senate Republican Amendments Safeguard Public Health and Safety

Boston- The State Senate today unanimously adopted a bill intended to reduce the rate of opioid addiction and increase efforts to retool pain management practices through policy changes at state agencies and municipal health, safety and education departments.

 “Our actions in the Senate today will help to prevent the human and economic costs caused by abuse of opiates and pain killers and give hope to those families who have struggled to aid a loved one suffering with addiction,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Through our Republican Caucus amendments to the bill, we engage the resources of state agencies to maximize collaboration with police, reduce incidents of driving under the influence of drugs, assess obstructions to inpatient treatment and reduce the over prescription of opiates.”

The Senate bill, known as the Substance Abuse Prevention Act, developed from recent findings of the Senate Special Opioid Committee following a year-long effort to produce recommendations to further strengthen opioid abuse prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery options.

 “Over the past several years, we have seen with alarming regularity an increase in drug-related deaths across the Commonwealth. This opioid epidemic touches every community and no family is immune to it. Last session, we passed comprehensive legislation that made a strike against this epidemic, but today we went a step further by focusing on education and prevention,” said Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) a member of the Special Committee. “It is my hope that this legislation will not only reach those who are already in need of addiction treatments, but also our children who are most susceptible to outside influences. This legislation provides key tools for our schools, physicians, and public safety officials to limit the amount of unused and unwanted prescription pills available, keep our communities safe, and ultimately save lives.”

The Senate Special Opioid Committee was convened in January 2014 to respond to a sharp rise in fatalities and overdoses. Deaths from heroin and other opioids totaled more than 1,200 in 2014, a spike of 34% over 2013 and 88 percent greater than 2012.

Components of the bill, Senate 2020, include:
• Directing the newly formed Drug Formulary Commission to publish a list of non-opiate pain management products that may be used as lower risk alternatives,
• Establishing a voluntary program for a person in recovery to record a non-opiate directive. This would allow a person to have a clear indicator in their patient record that a health care practitioner shall not administer or prescribe opiate drugs to that person,
• Limiting opioid prescriptions in an emergency department to a five-day supply;
• Establishing a Drug Stewardship program for drug manufacturers to allow patients to safely dispose of unwanted drugs,
• Creating a school-based screening and referral system,
• Ensuring patient access to pain management consultation,
• Expanding our “Good Samaritan” legal protections for first responders to possess and administer Naloxone.

Senators considered more than forty amendments during debate of the bill and adopted several sponsored or cosponsored by members of the Republican Caucus, which:
 • Lessens unused and unwanted prescriptions by requiring a practitioner to consult with a patient to determine preferences for reduces quantities and dosages of opioid medications, a so-called partial fill option,
 • Assists local police departments by providing service referral and education training for individuals seeking treatment at local police departments,
 • Makes a requirement for school districts to conduct student drug screenings to be subject to state appropriation, • Creates a special commission to examine roadside drug testing,
• Requires an assessment of the capacity for inpatient substance abuse treatment,
• Includes a module on addictive substances to be part of driver education courses for Junior Operators, • Requires that a practitioner receive informed consent from the parent or guardian of the minor prior to prescribing a controlled substance,
• Requires acute hospitals to report the number of newborns exposed to controlled substances.

Opiates are responsible for more annual deaths in Massachusetts than auto accidents and guns combined. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.