Days before Governor Charlie Baker’s plan to combat opiate addiction goes before the legislature, Baker on Monday made two announcements designed to maintain the momentum his administration has achieved to date: 8 of the state’s 14 sheriff’s endorsed the measure, and in-state medical schools agreed to ramp up the teaching of pain management.
Baker’s plan, which has met with resistance from some legal and medical professionals, would allow doctors to commit patients for 72 hours of addiction treatment, and prevent doctors from prescribing more than three days worth of opiates to new patients.
The consensus among the sheriffs is that they are tired of talking about opiate addiction and deaths – now considered at epidemic levels -- and want to see action. Hampshire County Sheriff Robert Garvey said the sheriffs agree that the goal is to help addicted prisoners so they don't end up back in jail.
"We want to be a part of their treatment, we want to be a part of the solution to the problem," Garvey said.
When Baker announced his plan, House Speaker Robert DeLeo expressed concern that the very real problems of addiction and death might compromise the treatment of individuals who have valid pain management concerns. Senate President Stanley Rosenberg was not as specific, saying that he would give the plan a “yellow light” – suggesting a wait and see attitude.
The Senate passed their own, different, opiate bill back in early October. The House of Representatives, which controls the flow of legislation on Beacon Hill, won't publicly hear Baker's bill until next week, just days before the Legislature recesses for the year, making it very unlikely a bill will get to Baker's desk before 2016.
One issue yet to be addressed is the effect mandatory admissions would have on hospital costs.
The agreement between Massachusetts’s medical schools and the state focuses on improving instruction so that future doctors can better teach recognize, prevent, and manage prescription opioid abuse.
The standards announced Monday by the Baker Administration were developed by the state public health commissioner, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and the medical schools at the University of Massachusetts; Boston University, Tufts University; and Harvard University, which have about 3,000 students combined.
Under the 10 "core competencies," students will learn how to evaluate the risk of opioid addiction, learn how to treat patients at risk of substance abuse before they become addicted, and learn how to manage addiction as a chronic disease.
Each school will tailor the standards to complement existing curricula in order to ensure they are being delivered to all students.