Stopping Addiction Before It Starts – IN YOUR CORNER WITH SENATOR IVES

Senator Ives
Senator Ives

By: Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives  – October, 2015

The State Senate recently passed additional reforms aimed at combatting the substance abuse epidemic in Massachusetts. Senate Bill 2020, which passed unanimously, focuses on prevention and early intervention, responsible pain management, expanded drug take-back programs by manufacturers, and reducing the number of opiate pills in circulation by working with doctors, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and pharmacists.

This bill aims to curb the reliance on powerful opiate pain medication, in favor of lower risk alternatives. Included in this effort are provisions tasking the Drug Formulary Commission with identifying drugs that have a high potential for abuse, requiring prescribers to inform patients of their option to partially fill their pain medication prescription, and creating a Pain Management Commission to establish a specialty certification for providers with expertise in pain relief.

I filed a successful amendment that adds a representative from the Massachusetts Chiropractic Society to the Pain Management Commission because I know many of my constituents and people throughout the Commonwealth already rely on chiropractic services as an alternative to pain medication.

The Senate also included language for which I strongly advocated that encourages physicians to discuss with their patients the side effects and risks of the medication they prescribe. Many people do not understand the inherent dangers associated with taking any kind of narcotic pain medication. Physicians should fully disclose these risks as part of a responsible prescribing strategy.

Additionally, the Senate adopted SBIRT Screenings (Screen, Brief , Intervention, Referral to Treatment) for public school students, in an effort to prevent youth addiction before it develops. These screenings would be conducted annually, similar to existing vision and hearing tests, and consist of nine yes-or-no questions designed to identify substance abuse behaviors. By asking questions and not drug testing, SBIRT encourages students to have conversations with school nurses or other trained support staff about making healthy choices and avoiding drug and alcohol use. Parents would receive notification before SBIRT, and they and their children have the opportunity to opt out of participating. Gloucester, Hadley, Hudson, Natick, North Andover, Northampton, and Wilmington already utilize SBIRT.

Although an amendment I offered which would have allowed school districts to choose whether or not to participate in the program did not pass, I will continue to advocate for fully funding any substance abuse prevention programs in schools. Fortunately, the Senate also voted to end the screening requirement should appropriations not be made available for its implementation.

The bill now moves to the State House of Representatives for their consideration before becoming law.

Senator O’Connor Ives can be reached at KATHLEEN.OCONNORIVES@MASENATE.GOV