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July 28, 2005




LYNN - Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey today endorsed Senate legislation that would require hospitals and clinics that treat heroin or other opioid overdoses to report such cases to the state Department of Public Health. The names and identities of patients admitted for treatment would not be collected under the bill.


“During meetings with local law enforcement, I heard time and again how powerful this tracking tool could be in confronting heroin abuse in Massachusetts,” said Healey, who announced her support for the measure with legislators at the NSMC Union Hospital. “This tracking system will allow us to target resources more quickly and efficiently, helping us to save lives and stop illegal drugs from destroying our communities.”


Massachusetts has some of the highest heroin use and addiction rates in the nation but the state does not currently track overdose data that could be useful in targeting treatment for addiction and overdose care. Obtaining timely data on opioid abuse could help public healthcare agencies and private providers to identify trends that inform decisions on appropriate prevention and treatment strategies.


The legislation, sponsored by Senator Steven Tolman (D-Brighton), would require hospitals and clinics to file reports that include key data about patients that have been treated for the abuse of heroin or other opioids such as OxyContin.


“The devastating epidemic of opioid abuse in Massachusetts is something that physicians, families, educators, and public officials are witnessing every day,” said Tolman, who is Senate chair of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee. “Yet in the face of such a serious problem, we lack actual data and information about drug overdoses that could help us combat substance abuse. This legislation offers an important tool in our fight against drug addiction.”


Reporting requirements include the city or town where the patient resides, the patient’s age, gender, race and the type of drug involved. To protect patient privacy, the patient’s name and other relevant identity data, such as social security number or driver’s license number will not be collected. All aspects of the report will be confidential and will not be considered a public record. Reports must be filed within 24 hours of treatment.


“This legislation is a very important step in gathering information to better understand what we’re facing and how to best combat opiate abuse throughout the Commonwealth,” said Senator Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn). “It will bring together healthcare and substance abuse professionals and allow us to truly identify where addiction lies and how it affects all of our communities.”


“This bill is critical to expanding our capabilities to identify the critical patterns involved in substance abuse,” said Representative Brian Wallace (D-Boston). “Bringing greater awareness to a debilitating public health epidemic will only deliver better results regarding drug education and treatment.”


The Romney administration has a strong track record of working to combat heroin and opioid abuse and addiction. In the fall of 2004, the Administration created the Inter-Agency Heroin and Other Opioids Initiative to fight heroin addiction in Massachusetts and announced more than $500,000 in grants to help communities prevent heroin and opioid abuse among children and adolescents.


In addition, the Legislature approved two supplemental budget amendments – totaling over $20 million – that were introduced by Governor Romney for substance abuse prevention and treatment services.



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