Gov. Deval Patrick announced a series of actions to address the opioid addiction epidemic in Massachusetts that will strengthen the state’s ability to respond to the opioid crisis with a focus on prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. Over the past two months, the Governor’s Opioid Task Force met with families and stakeholders from across the Commonwealth and worked with the Department of Public Health to develop a set of findings and recommendations designed to improve the Commonwealth’s opioid abuse prevention and treatment systems, prevent opioid misuse and addiction, increase the numbers of persons seeking treatment, and support persons recovering from addiction in our communities.
“These actions will help enhance our network of treatment and recovery services to help communities and families struggling with addiction,” said Governor Patrick. “I hope this work results in more families talking openly about issues of addiction in order to spark the process of healing and recovery.”
Governor Patrick announced the Task Force’s findings and corresponding recommendations from DPH this morning at the Ostiguy Recovery High School in Boston, one of four recovery high schools in the state. Ostiguy provides a structured school environment for high school-aged youth in recovery, which allows them to complete their education while receiving appropriate treatment and supports.
“Members of the Task Force have put forward strong recommendations, and I thank the Governor for committing to these actions that will help improve treatment services and fill any gaps in our recovery system,” said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, RN. “Massachusetts already has a strong treatment system, and I look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature and across the Commonwealth to create a national model for recovery.”
Governor Patrick’s actions to address the findings of the Task Force include:
Convening of Regional Governors: As this crisis is not only facing Massachusetts, but also other states in New England and across the nation, Governor Patrick will meet with New England governors on June 17th at Brandeis University to discuss a regional response to the opioid epidemic.
Expanding and Streamlining Access to Services: In order to meet the escalating demand for treatment, ensure a comprehensive continuum of care and facilitate access to coordinated care, DPH will expand community-based and residential treatment programs for underserved populations, including adolescents, young adults and families with children. DPH will also develop a central navigation system that will maintain a real-time inventory of available services across the Commonwealth to assist individuals in finding appropriate treatment.
Enhancing Opioid Education: DPH will launch a statewide awareness campaign for youth and parents to promote more openness and public dialogue about issues of addiction and recovery. The Commonwealth will also help enhance education for medical professionals on best-practices in identifying and treating individuals with opioid addiction.
Addressing Insurance Practices: DPH and the Division of Insurance, in consultation with the Health Policy Commission, will conduct a comprehensive review of insurance coverage for opioid addiction treatment. The agencies will consult with clinical experts to develop minimum criteria for opioid abuse and addiction treatment services that will be considered medically necessary for all patients. The Task Force found that gaps in coverage were impacting services for individuals in need.
Expanding Correctional System Treatment: The Commonwealth will work to provide individuals with enhanced support and treatment for drug addiction when they leave correctional facilities and integrate back into society. The report recommends additional funding to expand the use of injectable naltrexone (Vivitrol), an opioid antagonist, to help individuals in the custody of the Department of Correction and Houses of Correction to continue their recovery as they re-enter the community.
Strengthening Safe Prescribing and Dispensing: DPH will work with the boards of registration to consider regulations to minimize diversion and misuse while ensuring safe prescribing and patient access to medication.
The Opioid Task Force’s full report, including all findings and recommendations, can be found www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/substance-abuse/opioid/report-of-the-opioid-task-force.