Senate Passes Bill to Expand Tools for Addiction Treatment

In a 37-0 vote last Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate passed “An Act for Prevention and Access to Appropriate Care and Treatment of Addiction,” which is a revised version of legislation that passed the House on July 11 and was originally filed by Governor Baker as the CARE Act. The proposal was championed in the Senate by Sen. Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), who chairs the Senate’s Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use & Recovery, in addition to Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy), who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Addiction Prevention, Treatment & Recovery Options.

Notable provisions in the bill include:

requiring acute care hospitals that provide emergency services in an emergency department (ED) and satellite emergency facilities to be able to administer opioid agonist treatment for those who have suffered an overdose and are seeking addiction treatment, and to directly connect patients to ongoing treatment;
allowing partial fill prescriptions for certain narcotic drugs and enabling patients to go back to the pharmacy later to seek the full prescription, if necessary, without additional out-of-pocket costs;
issuance of a statewide standing order for dispensing opioid agonist treatment such as Narcan;
permitting licensed certified social workers and other licensed healthcare providers to administer substance use disorder evaluations (SUDEs) in hospital EDs;
an initiative that allows for the integration of the MassPAT into hospital electronic medical record systems; and
language that streamlines reporting on the frequency and location of SUDEs.

The Senate adopted a redrafted version of an amendment MHA supported and that was filed by Sen. Keenan to ensure that there is proper coding and payer coverage for the new opioid agonist treatment provisions.

The legislature must now reconcile the discrepancies between the House and Senate bills and send a compromise proposal to Governor Baker prior to the July 31 end of legislative formal sessions.