Governor Patrick signs bill to bolster addiction treatment


Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill on Wednesday, August 6, that gives addicts and their families better access to treatment and recovery services.

The new law requires insurers to reimburse patients for addiction treatment from licensed counselors, and it guarantees coverage for up to 14 days for inpatient care.

“Families can’t do it on their own,” Mr. Patrick said during the bill signing ceremony, the State House News Service reported. “Clinics and hospitals can’t do it on their own. Government can’t do it on its own. But all of us working together, we can. And what we can do is break this scourge of addiction to narcotic painkillers and the increase in use of heroin and all of the calamity that that creates in households all over the Commonwealth.”

According to the Patrick administration, the fiscal 2015 budget includes $10 million for a substance abuse trust fund; $1 million for an increase in access to naloxone, also known as Narcan, for reversals of overdoses; and $500,000 for the accreditation of sober homes.

The Massachusetts Association of Health Plans (MAHP) has raised concerns about the legislation driving up health care costs. In an August 1 letter to the governor, MAHP president Lora Pellegrini acknowledged the opioid addiction crisis but said the legislation abolishes the ability of health plans to “conduct medical necessity determinations.”

Governor Patrick was not swayed by insurance industry concerns, saying the legislation could also bring about cost savings. “But we started from the premise about how to help people heal,” he said.

James Hunt Jr., the president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, echoed the Governor. “If there is a cost associated, so be it,” he said. “In the long run, this is going to save dollars and save families from being fractured.”

The bill-signing was attended by a many lawmakers, including Cape and Islands representative Tim Madden.

Six Islanders have died of opiate overdose since August 2013, according to Dr. Charles Silberstein, psychiatrist and addiction specialist at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Island-wide, there was one heroin arrest in 2012 and 10 heroin arrests in 2013; in 2012 there were 13 arrests for oxycodone and percocet pills, in 2013 there were 15 arrests.

A recent series of six reports in The Times examined the opiate abuse and addiction problem on the Island.