BOSTON (AP) -- A bill that would ramp up state efforts to control a growing drug dependency problem won unanimous approval Tuesday in the Massachusetts Senate.
The measure would toughen the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and require pharmacists dispense an interchangeable abuse deterrent drug unless a physician has indicated that a substitution should not be made.
It would also mandate insurers reimburse for substance abuse treatment services delivered by licensed drug and alcohol counselors.
Senate President Therese Murray thanked her colleagues for acting on the bill, saying Massachusetts was in the midst of an opiate addiction crisis.
"When we have 135 babies born in one month addicted, when 93 percent of the families in (Department of Children and Families) care are there for addiction, now is the time to act and I hope that the House will take this up," Murray, a Plymouth Democrat, said immediately after the 40-0 vote.
The legislation would also mandate the chief medical examiner file a report with federal drug regulators and the state Department of Public Health when a death is found to be caused by a controlled substance.
The legislation was filed after a special Senate committee chaired by Democratic Sen. Jennifer Flanagan held hearings around the state on drug abuse and treatment options.
"We’ve heard that access to treatment to treatment is one of the biggest obstacles," said Flanagan, of Leominster, adding that the bill takes important steps to streamline the treatment system.
Other provisions of the bill include:
-- Require physicians consult the state’s prescription monitoring program before writing a prescription on an annual basis for patients receiving ongoing treatment of a controlled substance.
-- Require the Department of Public Health to report to the Legislature on whether doctors are using the prescription monitoring program and the number of physician and pharmacist violations.
-- Allow state regulators to mandate that before prescribing certain addictive prescription drugs, a doctor should review a patient’s prescription history, educate the patient on addiction, limit the quantity of pills and conduct a risk assessment.