John serves as vice-chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. This session, he has filed several bills that would help prevent addiction, expand access to substance use and mental health treatment, and decrease the number of drug related deaths in MA.
S.1296 – An Act regarding consistent care for addiction rooted in evidence, or the Consistent CARE Act
This legislation would ensure that all people who are incarcerated in Massachusetts have consistent, continuous access to medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD). If an individual were already receiving MOUD treatment prior to incarceration, staying at a facility where this treatment is not available would disrupt the path to recovery from opioid use disorder and increase the risk of relapse.
Once approved, this legislation would ensure that individuals receiving MOUD prior to incarceration continue receiving MOUD within 24 hours of incarceration, unless they voluntarily decline or a qualified addiction specialist finds it no longer clinically indicated.
S.782 – An Act to ensure more affordable care
Also known as the MAC Act, S.782 was filed in response to rising consumer health care costs, including co-pays, deductibles, and insurance premiums. This comprehensive cost-saving bill seeks to –
-Eliminate co-pays for certain treatments for eight chronic conditions that disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities: diabetes, asthma/COPD, hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, opioid use disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia
-Create a reinsurance program to support small businesses by making it easier and more cost-effective for them to offer health insurance to their employees. This program would lower the costs of premiums for businesses and create more affordable rates for individuals.
-Ensure availability of no-cost health plans for low-income ConnectorCare members
S.1452 – An Act relative to recovery coach licensure
Data from recent studies and conversations with those struggling with addiction have both continually indicated that recovery coaches are an incredibly helpful resource in an individual’s path to recovery. These one-to-one behavioral healthcare professionals are able to draw from their own personal experiences with addiction to help patients by regularly meeting to set and meet recovery goals.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of professional oversight for this field. Some critics have voiced concerns regarding the risk of possible ethics violations, while others, including recovery coaches themselves, have pointed to the ill-defined standards and process for becoming a recovery coach.
This legislation would establish a Board of Registration of Licensed Recovery Coaches, which would be tasked with certifying and monitoring recovery coaches. It would establish professional standards for this field, along with a streamlined, uniform process for becoming a recovery coach. Ultimately, passage of this bill would hopefully expand the number of recovery coaches in Massachusetts.
S.1292 – An Act providing access to full spectrum addiction treatment services
In 2014, the Commonwealth sought to increase access to substance abuse treatment by requiring public and commercial health insurance plans to cover addiction treatment services for up to 14 days without prior authorization. This policy covered a variety of treatments, including Access to Stabilization (ATS), or detoxification, and Clinical Stabilization Services (CSS), a post detox step-down.
Unfortunately, this program has certain limitations, namely the number of days covered and types of treatments to which it applies. This legislation would extend the required coverage period from 14 days to 30 days and expand coverage to include Transitional Support Services (TSS), another form of step-down treatment.
S.1294 – An Act strengthening prescription drug safety and drug stewardship
To prevent prescription medications from falling into wrong hands, the Commonwealth enacted a drug diversion program to collect and dispose of unused prescription pills properly. Despite recent reports revealing the success of this effort, an existing sunset clause would cause the program to end soon. This legislation repeals the sunset clause to ensure continuation of the program.
This legislation would also guarantee funding for drug diversion while continuing to hold accountable the individuals who profited from the opioid epidemic. The program is currently funded by drug manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, as a result of the Commonwealth’s lawsuit against them for their role in creating the opioid epidemic. This legislation would ensure these drug manufacturers fund the program in perpetuity.
S.604 – An Act relative to removing barriers to non-opioid pain management
Opioids are not the only effective means of pain relief. Doctors and patients decide the best pain management plan based on each individual case, and sometimes, that plan includes non-opioid methods such as acupuncture or physical therapy. However, many of these modalities require physicians and doctors to cut through more red tape than if they simply prescribed opioids. This bill would remove such barriers and would increase coverage and access to non-opioid alternatives.
S.1150 – An Act providing access to full spectrum addiction treatment services
In 2014, we established that commercial insurance companies must provide for at least 14 days of addiction treatment, and asserted that decisions about the medical necessity for such treatment must rest solely with patients and their clinicians. While the 2014 law was groundbreaking, it provided only for detoxification (ATS) and clinical stabilization (CSS) services. This bill would require commercial insurance to cover up to 30 days of substance use treatment, improving access to step-down treatment at an estimated cost of only 5 cents per insured member per month. Mass Health presently provides coverage for the first 90 days of residential rehabilitation services.
S.1154 – An Act to protect children’s mental health services
This bill would establish an ombudsperson position within the Office of the Child Advocate in order to identify barriers to effective child mental health treatment, to propose solutions, to monitor compliance with relevant statutes, and to resolve complaints filed on behalf of a child.