Included in comprehensive House legislation to address opioid addiction in the Commonwealth were four amendments sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).
The bill, which passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives with unanimous and bipartisan support, adopted amendments sponsored by DiZoglio pertaining to the advertising of opiates, cautionary statements on opiate medications, updating the Commonwealth’s Protective Custody Law and additional funding to address substance abuse in hard-hit communities.
Under the legislation, the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Health (DPH) will be directed to regulate the advertising of opiates, benzos and narcotics by medical practitioners in their offices.
“Physicians often display advertisements in their offices promoting opiate painkillers,” said DiZoglio. “These advertisements are provided by pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin manufacturer which came under fire in recent years for misleading doctors and the public about their drug’s risk of addiction.”
DPH is also directed under another DiZoglio amendment to come up with updated cautionary statements for opioid medications, to be included in all opioid prescription packaging.
“The literature will cover the addictive properties of opiates, risk of dependency and addiction, risk of heroin addiction and abuse, misuses by adults and children, addiction support and treatment resources and the telephone helpline operated by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services,” said DiZoglio.
The bill also includes a DiZoglio amendment updating the Commonwealth’s Protective Custody Law, which currently allows officers to take persons intoxicated with alcohol to the point of being incapacitated into custody for a period of no more than 12 hours to allow the individuals to regain sobriety. An officer brings the inebriated person home, to the hospital or to the police station until sobriety is met or the 12-hour period is reached.
“This amendment allows the definition of ‘incapacitated’ under the provisions of the law to be expanded to those high on controlled substances, including opiates,” said DiZoglio. “By doing so, more overdoses will be prevented and officers will have an important new tool as they continue to confront this heartbreaking opioid epidemic.”
“I would like to applaud Representative DiZoglio for championing this cause and helping to keep our communities safe,” said Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon. “This change in the Protective Custody Law will significantly aid first responders in their abilities to save lives and help those under the influence of opioids or other drugs.”
Also included in the legislation is an expansion of the Commonwealth’s Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) grants.
“SSYI has proven an immensely effective tool in recent years in reducing youth violence across Massachusetts,” said DiZoglio. “Cities are provided funding through the program to implement intervention strategies in partnership with local organizations, training and education programs. Under this amendment, communities will now be able to use SSYI funding toward addressing local substance abuse issues.”
The House and Senate will now move into negotiations on a final bill to be agreed upon by both legislative chambers.