In response to a growing number of opioid-related deaths, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency. Patrick noted that use of oxycodone and other narcotic painkillers, often seen as a gateway to heroin use, has been on the rise in Massachusetts. He directed the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) to take several actions aimed at reducing and preventing opioid overdoses. Under the governor’s direction, DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, RN, will work with the Public Health Council to implement several immediate directives. These directives include:
- Permitting all first responders to carry and administer naloxone, the overdose reversal medication.
- Prohibiting the prescribing and dispensing of all hydrocodone-only medications until “adequate measures are in place to safeguard against the potential for diversion, overdose, and misuse.”
- Mandating prescriber and pharmacist use of the state’s prescription monitoring program.
Additionally, DPH will re-task the Commonwealth’s Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention with additional members from public health provider organizations, law enforcement, municipalities, and families impacted by the opiate epidemic. The council will make recommendations on further actions that can be taken within 60 days. Patrick also committed to additional funding for treatment and recovery services offered to the Department of Correction, Sherriff’s Departments, and the general public. Massachusetts will partner with other governors and federal stakeholders to develop a regional action plan to bring an end to the opioid epidemic. More information is available in a press release from the office of Governor Patrick.