House Passes Legislation to Combat Substance Abuse Epidemic

Representative Wayne A. Matewsky (D-Everett) joined colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation that increases access to treatment for individuals confronting substance addiction and takes significant steps to combat the current epidemic.

The bill seeks to set patients on a path to sustainable recovery by both increasing access to care and improving the standard of care. Under this legislation, all insurance plans in the Commonwealth willcover acute treatment services, clinical stabilization and medical detox for at least ten days, and patients will have access to treatment without having to obtain prior authorization first. Additionally, licensed drug and alcohol counselors will be added to the list of specialists covered to allow these providers to bill insurers for their services.

Matewsky explained that “substance abuse is no longer an issue of the inner cities only it is prevalent in all cities and towns in the Commonwealth. We cannot turn a blind eye to that fact that we as a population are ethically and morally required to impede substance abuse. Foremost the economics of addiction for individuals and families have far reaching implications, and costs to the Commonwealth.Presently without a comprehensive and formulated plan we will only continue to increase economic cost to the tax payers. The passage of this legislation provides impacted individuals with the opportunity to obtain treatment and counseling in their path to recovery and in the long term will stabilize economic costs to the Commonwealth”.

“Under the leadership of Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, the House prioritized consideration of this bill to address a recent alarming rise in substance abuse incidents,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D – Haverhill), chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means. “We implement standards to ensure quality of care for those in treatment and we empower the Drug Formulary Commission and the Department of Public Health to determine if substances pose a heightened risk to our Commonwealth. Our bill takes important steps not only to provide comprehensive support and recovery services, but to protect the public health before incidents occur. ”

The legislation expands on efforts taken by the House last year by allowing for the emergency scheduling of substances by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH).  DPH will now have the authority to temporarily categorize a substance as “schedule I’ on an emergency basis to avoid imminent hazard to public safety or preserve public health. Additionally, this bill authorizes DPH compile a list of prescription drug drop boxes and other safe locations where people will be able to dispose of excess prescription drugs.

“This legislation is the first step in quelling the rise in substance addiction that is devastatingthe lives of people across the Commonwealth,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “The bill provides the foundation for sustainable improvement by increasing access to care and changing the way we monitor and respond to unprecedented public health crises like the one we’re currently confronting.”

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