District attorneys back Baker on opioid bill

Prosecutors urge lawmakers to pass measure intact


ELEVEN COUNTY PROSECUTORS who deal with the fallout of the opioid addiction epidemic on a daily basis threw their support behind Gov. Charlie Baker’s substance abuse prevention legislation this week, calling the bill “a significant step forward” in a letter to lawmakers.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, the president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, wrote a letter to the House and Senate chairs of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee on Wednesday to convey the group’s unanimous support.

In addition to Rep. Elizabeth Malia and Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, the letter was also delivered to Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

“While law enforcement must and does play a vital role in response to this problem, it cannot operate alone or in isolation,” Conley wrote. “To achieve the kind of results we all wish for requires smart law enforcement strategies in balance with education, prevention and intervention, as well as treatment and recovery.”

The district attorneys said Baker’s bill hits a balance “based in the daily reality of addiction and recovery,” particularly through proposals to restrict the number of opioids doctors can prescribe, to require physicians to check the prescription monitoring program database before prescribing opioids, and to allow doctors to hold substance abuse patients involuntary for up to three days for treatment.

Conley also talked up Baker’s bill as a cohesive approached to tackling addiction, perhaps trying to send a signal to lawmakers to discourage against breaking it up into pieces.

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Matt Murphy

State House News Service
“The net result is greater than the sum of the individual parts,” Conley wrote.

The Senate approved legislation this year targeting substance abuse prevention and education, while the House is taking additional time to review all the options. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has said it’s unlikely the House will consider the Senate’s or governor’s bill until 2016. A hearing on Baker’s bill is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 16.