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Governor Baker announces steps to combat opioid addiction crisis

Staff writer |
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced the first steps of his plan to attack the growing opioid addiction crisis, including the establishment of a 16 member Working Group and a call on insurers to more effectively manage prescribing practices.

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Governor Baker made the announcement at Hope House, a drug addiction treatment center in Boston after a brief tour of the facility and personal discussions with several clients in recovery.

Blue Cross Blue Shields' Prescription Pain Medication Safety Program is as a role model.
"As we begin the process of addressing one of the Commonwealth's most pressing public health emergencies, I am pleased to announce a 16 member Opioid Addiction Working Group which will be tasked with formulating a statewide strategy to combat addiction," said Governor Baker.

"We have brought together a group of individuals from many diverse backgrounds and experiences related to prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery support and law enforcement, who after holding a listening tour with stakeholders around the Commonwealth, will report back to the administration with specific, targeted and tangible recommendations to increase public awareness about these medications and reduce the rate of addiction."

The Working Group will collaborate with experts and a broad range of interest groups to review resources and the manner in which they are utilized and preside over four public events, to be held in different regions of the state, to listen to communities and ignite conversation and ideas. They will complete their work and submit a list of recommendations by May.

In addition, the Governor is calling on insurers, both public and private, to develop their own set of best practices for opioid management. He pointed to Blue Cross Blue Shields' Prescription Pain Medication Safety Program, as a model. In the first two years of the program, claims for short-acting opioids such as Vicodin and Percocet, decreased by twenty-five percent.

"These medications can provide great relief for many patients, including those tormented by debilitating chronic pain or suffering in their last days of life," said Governor Baker.

"But we need to make sure prescribing is appropriate. Insurers can play a big role, including establishing best practices and ensuring compliance."

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