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Friedman continues fight to reduce opioid deaths

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

After playing a major role behind opioid legislation that was signed into law this summer, Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, is working in collaboration with several health-care professionals, law enforcement officers, elected officials and others to explore more ways to decrease opioid-related overdose deaths across Massachusetts.

The opioid legislation (Chapter 208 of the Acts of 2018), signed into law on Aug. 9, established two study commissions: a harm-reduction sites commission to evaluate the feasibility of establishing harm-reduction sites, also known as safe-injection sites, in Massachusetts, and a Section 35 involuntary commitment commission to study the efficacy of involuntary inpatient treatment for non-court involved individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD).

Senator Friedman will be serving on both commissions.

“I’m proud of the work we did on the Opioid bill, but our work did not end when the bill was passed into law,” said Sen. Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, in a Nov. 16 news release. “This epidemic continues to impact residents throughout the Commonwealth, so it is critically important that we find more ways to reduce harm and save lives. I’m eager to serve on these commissions, collaborate with expert stakeholders and analyze best practices for our ongoing fight against this epidemic.”

As a member of the harm-reduction sites commission, Friedman aims to work with commission members to:

  • Examine the feasibility of operating harm-reduction sites;
  • Consider the potential public health and public safety benefits and risks;
  • Review the potential federal, state and local legal issues;
  • Recommend appropriate guidance that would be necessary and required for professional licensure boards;
  • Review existing harm-reduction efforts in the Commonwealth;
  • Identify opportunities to maximize public health benefits;
  • Explore ways to support persons using harm-reduction sites who express an interest in seeking SUD treatment;
  • Identify other harm-reduction opportunities (i.e. Fentanyl test strips); and
  • Review alternatives and recommendations to broaden the availability of naloxone without prescription.

Commission members include: Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, who chairs the commission, Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Monica Bharel, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern, Chief Medical Officer of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program Jessie M. Gaeta, Worcester’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services Matilde Castiel, Trinity Health of New England Inc. Chief of Addiction Medicine and Recovery Services Robert Roose, Armando Gonzalez, Aubri Esters, Gary Langis of the Education Development Center (EDC), Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan, Northeastern University Associate Professor of Law and Health Sciences Leo Beletsky, and Representative Jeffrey N. Roy.

As a member of the Section 35 involuntary commitment commission, Friedman plans to work with commission members to:

  • Review medical literature and expert opinions on the long-term relapse rates of individuals diagnosed with SUD following involuntary inpatient treatment;
  • Review the differences in outcomes for coerced and non-coerced patients;
  • Review potential increased risk of fatal overdose following a period of involuntary treatment;
  • Review length of time necessary for detoxification of opioids and induction on medication-assisted treatment (MAT);
  • Review legal implications of holding a noncourt-involved individual who is diagnosed with SUD but is no longer under the influence of substances;
  • Review current SUD treatment capacity;
  • Review the effectiveness of the Section 35 process at reducing long-term relapse rates; and
  • Evaluate and develop a proposal for a consistent statewide standard for the medical review of individuals who are involuntarily committed due to an alcohol or SUD.

Commission include: Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, who chairs the commission, DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel, Senator Will Brownsberger, Representative Michael Finn, Representative Ruth Balser, Topsfield Police Sgt. Neal S. Hovey, Northeastern University Associate Professor of Law and Health Sciences Leo Beletsky, Chief Justice Paul M. Carey, DPH Director of Health Equity Sabrina Selk, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery Maryanne Frangules, Respite Program Medical Director David Munson, Department of Nursing Associate Director Carol Mallia, Psychiatric and Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Carrie Jochelson, McLean Hospital Director of Social Work Kristin Beville, ACLU Staff Attorney Jessie Rossman, Committee for Public Counsel Services Director of Mental Health Litigation Mark Larsen, Mass. Health and Hospital Association Sr. Manager of Behavioral Health and Healthcare Leigh Youmans, Cambridge Health Alliance Chief of Psychology David G. Stewart, Massachusetts Medical Society President Alain Chaoui, Addiction Psychiatrist Mark Green, Mass. College of Emergency Physicians President Scott Weiner, Spectrum Health Outpatient Opioid Treatment Medical Director Todd Kerensky, Association for Behavioral Healthcare President Vic DiGravio, and Bournewood Health Systems CEO Marcia Fowler.

Between 2000 and 2017, there were 2,905 opioid-related overdose deaths in Middlesex County – the highest rate out of every county in Massachusetts. In that same time frame, there were 13, 870 deaths statewide. In 2017, the death rate decreased by 6 percent for the first time in seven years – there were 346 deaths in Middlesex County and 2,016 deaths statewide.

Friedman represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn and precincts 1-2 and 4-7 in Lexington.

This news announcement was published Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.

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