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The Wonk – December 2015

New Members

Steps in the Fight Against Opioids

Earlier this month, the Public Policy Committee hosted State Senator Jennifer Flanagan, Chair of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee, for a discussion on opioid legislation in Massachusetts. As opioid addiction has become a major problem in our communities, it was eye-opening to learn more about the steps being taken at the state level to combat it.

Senator Jennifer Flanagan is a leader in the fight against opioid and substance abuse in the Massachusetts Senate. She has filed Substance Abuse Recovery legislation which increases opportunities for long-term substance abuse recovery in the Commonwealth by supporting a continuum of care and removing barriers that stand in the way of effective treatment.

Our discussion included local leaders who are facing this epidemic on a daily basis.  Senator Flanagan discussed the multi-pronged approach that must be taken to combat the epidemic.  The Legislature and the Governor are both supportive of efforts to curb the overwriting of prescriptions, increase education in schools, provide better mental health services and help get resources to those in need, as well as, their families.

We are hopeful that meaningful legislation passes in early 2016 and helps break this growing trend.  The Public Policy Committee expects to take a position on this topic in the next few weeks.

Below is a quick summary on some of Senator Flanagan's work on this topic:


Access to Treatment - Signed into law in 2014

  • Requires insurers to reimburse patients for addiction treatment from licensed counselors, which will improve access to treatment for those struggling with addiction.
  • Removes prior-authorization requirements for outpatient substance abuse treatment and provides for coverage of up to 14 days in an inpatient setting, if deemed medically appropriate.  This provision will remove barriers to treatment that some patients have experienced and gives patients and clinicians discretion over a patient's treatment plans.
  • Gives the Department of Public Health (DPH) new regulatory authorities to reduce abuse of opioids and provides emergency scheduling powers to temporarily ban dangerous substances like bath salts and K2, when circumstances warrant.  This will stem the tide of dangerous substances that are fueling the addiction epidemic.
  • Requires chief medical examiners to report overdose deaths to DPH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, improving the ability of public health agencies to quickly identify and implement measures to reduce the risk of further overdoses.


Substance Abuse Prevention - pending legislation

  • Add Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) to the list of screenings a school conducts to identify youth engaging in risky or abusive behaviors and matching them with appropriate services before they become dependent on drugs.
  • Increase access to specialists who specialize in pain management and treatment by creating a program for remote consulting for physicians working with individuals experiencing chronic pain and creating a holistic plan for each patient, similar to the model used for access to child psychiatry.
  • Allow an individual to voluntarily include in their Medical Record and their PMP record a binding directive to practitioners not to prescribe or administer an opiate drug to the person in non-emergency situations. Treatment programs would include notice about this option when putting together discharge and continuing treatment plans for persons in recovery.

Mark Your Calendars!

Please help us start the year strong and join our next meeting to discuss local issues in the Nashoba Valley.  As we gear up for our Annual Beacon Hill Day in June, it will be important for us to understand local issues and how we can help make the case for them on Beacon Hill via the budgetary process.

We hope you can join us for a healthy discussion regarding transportation, infrastructure, schools, economic development and municipal finance.

Our guests look forward to their discussion regarding issues facing their towns and educating our Chamber on how we can help advocate on their behalf.

Confirmed guests include:

Thatcher Kezer        Devens

Robert Pontbriand    Town Administrator             Ayer

Keith Bergmann       Town Administrator             Littleton

Mark Andrews          Town Administrator             Pepperell

Mark Haddad           Town Manager                     Groton

Patrice Garvin          Town Administrator             Shirley

Donald Lowe            Town Administrator             Bolton

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, January 5that 8am at the Chamber's Office. Please RSVP to

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