Thursday, March 27, 2014

Governor declares public health emergency

This is great news. I applaud the efforts of the Department of Public Health and especially Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett for rising to the occasion.

As a member of the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention, I look forward to the discussions we'll have about bringing more treatment to the fore and adding to our drug court/jail diversion programs. The immediate action relative to Zohydro is welcomed as is clearing the way for all first responders to carry and administer Narcan.

I've been preaching this stuff for awhile, so today is a good day for me.

GOVERNOR PATRICK DECLARES PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY, ANNOUNCES $20 MILLION AND SEVERAL ACTIONS TO ADDRESS OPIOID ADDICTION EPIDEMIC

Convenes emergency session of Public Health Council to immediately put directives into effect

BOSTON – Thursday, March 27, 2014 – Governor Deval Patrick today declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts to address the growing opioid addiction epidemic, and directed the Department of Public Health (DPH) to take immediate action to combat overdoses, stop the problem from getting worse and help those already addicted recover, with an increase of $20 million for treatment services for the general public and criminal justice systems.

The Governor’s Public Health Emergency declaration provides emergency powers to DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, RN, who will work with the Public Health Council to take the following actions:


1. Universally permit first responders to carry and administer Naloxone (Narcan), a safe and effective opioid antagonist that, when timely administered, can reverse an overdose and save a life. Naloxone will also be made widely available through standing order prescription in pharmacies in order to provide greater access to family and friends who fear a loved one might overdose.

2. Immediately prohibit the prescribing and dispensing of any hydrocodone bitartrate product in hydrocodone-only extended-release formulation (commonly known as Zohydro) until determined that adequate measures are in place to safeguard against the potential for diversion, overdose and abuse.  The introduction of this new painkiller into the market is a huge danger to the individuals already addicted to opiates and looking for something stronger.

3. Require the use of prescription monitoring by physicians and pharmacies to better safeguard against over-prescribing.

4. Re-task the Commonwealth’s Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention with added members from public health, provider organizations, law enforcement, municipalities and families impacted by the opiate epidemic, with the directive to make recommendations in 60 days on further actions that can be taken, including, but not limited to: how to better coordinate services, align private insurance with state issued insurance and how to divert non-violent criminal defendants struggling with addiction into treatment programs.

5. Finally, dedicate an additional $20 million to increase the use and availability of treatment services.

Commissioner Bartlett today also issued a public health advisory to help increase education and community engagement to support all treatment options to combat and prevent the spread of opioid addiction.

“These actions will help slow the rise of this dangerous addiction;” said Commissioner Bartlett. “Together, these steps will raise awareness in our communities, help save loved ones who tragically fall down from their disease and build important bridges to long-term recovery.”

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