House Passes Important Bill in the Fight Against Opioid Abuse

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted unanimously last Wednesday to pass a sweeping, multi-part bill to fight the opioid crisis.

HB4725, entitled “An Act for Prevention and Access to Appropriate Care and Treatment of Addiction,” directs acute care hospitals that deliver emergency services as well as satellite emergency facilities, to have the capacity to initiate opioid treatment involving buprenorphine therapy, among other such “opioid agonists.” Such agonists have a similar effect on the body as opioids as they attach themselves to the same receptors as the addictive substance, such as heroin. Hospitals would also be required to connect patients to continuing treatment. MHA was supportive of these important parts of HB4725 and convened a workgroup earlier this year to develop recommendations for hospitals to implement the requirements.

Another critical part of the bill updates the law allowing patients to request a partial fill of prescriptions for certain narcotic drugs to enable patients to go back to the pharmacy later to seek the full prescription, if necessary. Patients would only be subject to one co-pay for such prescriptions. The bill requires electronic prescribing for all controlled substances effective January 1, 2020.

MHA worked successfully with Rep. Liz Malia (D-Boston) to amend the bill to make it easier for hospitals to more smoothly integrate MassPAT, the state’s prescription monitoring program that allows providers to quickly research a patient’s prescribing history, into hospital electronic medical record systems. Another approved amendment that Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose) and Rep. David Nangle (D-Lowell) promoted allows licensed certified social workers to perform substance use disorder evaluations in hospital emergency departments.

The bill now moves to the Senate which has a short time frame to act on it before the end of the legislative session July 31.