Referring to cases of prescription opiate addiction in his home state of Massachusetts as “an epidemic,” U.S. Rep. William Delahunt (D-Ma.) this month brought together members of affected groups to brainstorm about ways Washington could help the state achieve solutions.
The Cape Cod Times reported April 13 that the Massachusetts Democrat organized a Statehouse meeting involving lawmakers, physicians and people with prescription drug addiction. Delahunt would like to see federal action to help Massachusetts implement recommendations from the state’s OxyContin and Heroin Commission. The commission’s chairman, State Sen. Steven Tolman (D-Boston), already has introduced a bill that among its provisions would allow Massachusetts doctors to bypass insurance restrictions in designing treatment programs for opiate addicts.
“Private insurance has turned its back,” said Tolman, whose legislation also calls for use of tamper-resistant prescription tabs similar to those being employed in New York state.
Delahunt said most of the prescription opiates obtained illegally in Massachusetts come from Florida, where “pill mills” that prescribe large amounts of OxyContin and other painkillers operate unabated because of weak regulation. Delahunt said he was shocked at the high percentage of addiction treatment clients in Massachusetts facilities who are being treated for opiate dependence.
Joanne Peterson, founder of Learn to Cope, an organization of families affected by a loved one’s opiate addiction, said that 1,400 Massachusetts families have registered with the group over the past six years.