Residents and medical officials react to new opioid bill

An estimated 4 people a day die in Massachusetts due to opioid overdose

SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) – If Governor Charlie Baker signs a new law, Massachusetts will become the first state in the nation to allow partial fills of opioid prescriptions. Patients could also tell their doctors not to prescribe them with potentially addictive painkillers.

The bill allows patients to ask their doctor to prescribe them fewer pills than the prescription may require. Baystate Medical Center’s Emergency Department Chair Dr. Niels Rathlev told 22News, “We have care plans that we developed, which are electronic care plans that alert providers that this may be a patient that has a issue with opioid seeking behavior. And that gives the providers some confidence that this is actually a patient that shouldn’t receive opioids at all.”

Baystate Medical Center is among many hospitals with access to a state-wide database to monitor patients prescriptions, to prevent opioid abuse. The bill limits opioid prescriptions for adults and all opioid prescriptions for minors to a 7-day supply, with the exception of chronic pain management, cancer, and those who are terminally ill. One man told 22News, it’s a start, but not a solution. “There’s so many different facets for it, I don’t think there’s one simple…there’s no one silver bullet. I think it’s a great start, but that’s what it is, a start.”

The bill also requires hospitals evaluating overdose patients to keep them for a 24-hour evaluation. It’s voluntary: a patient can refuse the evaluation. Dr. Rathlev told 22News, Baystate is still trying to figure out how to provide substance abuse counseling to patients within the 24 hour voluntary hold, which will likely go into effect July 1st.

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