The Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill last week aimed at combating opiate-related substance abuse problems before they even begin, especially for at-risk teens.
“The Senate unanimously passed the second bill to address the opioid epidemic,” state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, told The Daily News of Newburyport. “The prior bill focused on expanding treatment options and went into effect this week. This bill is focused on prevention and intervention in an effort to curb the serious health crisis.” According to recent statistics from the state, unintentional deaths from opiate overdoses have increased 90% in the state of Massachusetts within the past 12 years.
In Massachusetts, like many states in the US, a growing heroin overdoes have been claiming lives in epidemic proportions. The bill takes aim at the origins of opiate addiction, which is increasingly a result of addiction o powerful prescription drugs such as oxycontin. Senate Bill 2020 focuses on alternatives to the powerful narcotic, and includes an emphasis on responsible pain management, expanded manufacturer drug take-back programs. It also makes changes to health insurance polices that are meant to make drug treatment and recovery programs more accessible.
The legislation’s focus on prevention includes a policy meant to reduce the number of opiate pills in circulation. By working with doctors, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry, safer alternatives will be discussed, and patients taking powerful opiates will be made aware of the danger. Patients will also be encouraged to participate in drug take back programs with unused narcotic medications, which often fall into the hands of teens experimenting with drugs and others who abuse prescription medications, often with disastrous results. Many prescription drugs users turn to street heroin when their drug of choice isn’t available, increasing the likelihood of overdose and causing a vicious cycle of addiction that destroys lives.
The bill also creates a program in the school, similar to other public health screenings such as hearing tests and scoliosis, meant to be a tool for identifying youths at risk for addictive behavior. Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) will become a regular screening that schools conduct to identify at-risk youth engaging in substance abuse and, hopefully, pairing them with appropriate services before they become dependent on drugs.