A budget bill Gov. Charlie Baker filed with the Legislature Friday includes $27.8 million in spending to handle drug addiction, adding to $111 million in substance abuse treatment spending included in the annual budget bill the governor signed, according to his administration.
“This one, for me anyway, is particularly important,” Baker said at a press conference after signing the budget. “It is something that I talked about during my inaugural address and it is something that, as both the lieutenant governor and I have said on a number of occasions, it doesn’t matter where you go in the Commonwealth, it doesn’t matter who you are or who you’re talking to, you put 20 people in a room and you can find folks who have been directly affected by this.”
Unintentional opioid overdoses claimed an estimated 1,008 lives in Massachusetts in 2014, an increase over the prior year and more than three times the number of lives lost to automobile accidents, according to the Department of Public Health.
The funding proposed Friday by the governor includes $15.2 million for Department of Public Health substance abuse services; $5.8 million to move women civilly committed for substance abuse problems from MCI-Framingham to a hospital operated by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services; $3.8 million for school-based substance abuse prevention curricula; and $3 million for MassHealth substance abuse treatment and prevention.
At a press conference announcing efforts to combat opiate addiction last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said in addition to the $27.8 million, the administration will also repurpose $6.7 million in existing funds to bring the total investment next year to $34.5 million.
The budget as passed by the Legislature already included a provision to establish a bulk purchasing program for Narcan, an emergency medication to treat drug overdoses, and a requirement that pharmacies enter prescription monitoring data into the system within 24 hours instead of within 7 days, two reforms that Baker’s task force recommended last month.
In February, Baker announced the formation of a 16-member opioid addiction working group, which was chaired by Sudders and included Attorney General Maura Healey, to develop a statewide strategy to fight addiction.
Last month, the governor’s task force produced a report with 65 action items that included the creation of nearly 200 new treatment beds by July 2016, a partnership with a chain pharmacy to pilot a drug take-back program, amendments to the civil commitment statute to include substance abuse disorders. The task force also recommended making the state’s prescription monitoring program easier for physicians to use and more efficient at producing real-time data that can be used to target treatment and intervention programs.
Baker said the initiatives announced Friday will not be the last of his efforts to implement the suggestions of his opioid task force.
“In the coming months, we plan to file additional legislation to address further recommendations associated with that working group’s report and battle the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth,” the governor said.