Baker: Opioid bill a ‘blueprint’ for nation

After launching his re-election campaign over the weekend, Gov. Charlie Baker’s first move on Tuesday after an official trip out of state to start the week was to draw attention to legislation that aims to expand treatment for opioid addiction across the Bay State.

The law, which had already been officially signed by Baker last week, became one of the success stories to come out of the Legislature in the closing days of formal sessions in July, and has been touted by the governor’s re-election campaign as another step taken in curtailing the opioid and heroin epidemic.

This is the second major bill that the governor has signed since taking office in 2015 to fight the crisis that claimed an estimated 2,016 lives in 2017. He marked the occasion Tuesday with a ceremonial signing at a Roxbury recovery center.

The governor spent Monday in Vermont at the annual New England Governors/Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference, making the ceremonial signing his first official public event in Massachusetts since the formal launch of his re-election campaign. At a picnic event in Shrewsbury on Saturday, Baker addressed the work his administration has done and what he sees as left to do to combat the drug crisis.

“We’re talking today about a second term. Why? Because there are some things we want to finish the job,” Baker told the crowd at the annual Baker-Polito Picnic. “While we have seen for the first time in decades a drop in the number of people dying and the number of people receiving opioid prescriptions and major expansions in our capacity to treat people, we are nowhere near finished on this. We have a long way to go. We need four more years to build on the success of the first four so that we can beat this scourge into the ground once and for all.”

The opioid abuse prevention and treatment bill was one of several enacted by the House and Senate on a harried final day of formal sessions on July 31 when some initiatives, including health care and education funding reforms, fell apart.

Earlier in the month, the Senate scrapped a Ways and Means proposal to established supervised injection sites as part of its version of bill, instead adopting an amendment to study the idea. Supporters retreated after U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling made clear that such facilities would violate federal law and anyone working at or using one of the sites could be subject to federal criminal charges.

“It was very much a team effort between our administration, the secretary and our colleagues in the legislature,” said Baker, who was was joined by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

“This legislation has been used as a blueprint for fighting the epidemic in [46] states,” Baker told the crowded room. “It’s truly a team effort, and there’s a lot more to be done.”

The law will also expand access to the overdose reversing drug Narcan, require all prescribers to convert to secure electronic prescriptions by 2020, and take a step toward credentialing recovery coaches.