BOSTON - This week, Governor Charlie Baker led a coalition of 46 governors in resolving to take steps to combat the nation's opioid addiction crisis. Governor Baker, in his capacity as Chairman of the National Governors' Association Health and Human Services Committee, worked with nearly every American governor to sign "a compact modeled after policies that have already been implemented in Massachusetts."
By Shira Schoenberg
Forty-four state governors have agreed to adopt a common set of strategies to fight opioid addiction, signing a compact modeled after policies that have already been implemented in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a former health insurance executive, is the chairman of the National Governors Association's Health and Human Services Committee, which organized the compact.
"Bringing governors together around core strategies to end the opioid epidemic adds momentum behind state efforts and sends a clear signal to opioid prescribers and others whose leadership is critical to saving lives," Baker, a Republican, said in a statement. "Massachusetts is proud to bring our plans to the table for other states as we work collaboratively to find meaningful solutions to this public health crisis."
Addressing drug addiction has been a priority for Baker and Massachusetts lawmakers. Addiction to prescription drugs, which often leads to heroin use, is a growing problem in the U.S., particularly in the northeast. An estimated 78 people a day die nationwide from unintentional opioid overdoses.
Baker in March signed a comprehensive law aimed at preventing addiction and educating students and doctors.
The National Governors Association released the compact — the first such agreement governors have crafted in 10 years — on Wednesday, the day before the NGA's annual summer meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, which Baker plans to attend.
The 44 governors who signed the compact commit to taking steps to reduce improper opioid prescribing, change the nation's understanding of addiction and ensure that addicts have access to treatment. Many of the specific actions that are recommended are steps Massachusetts has already taken.
Steps to limit prescriptions can include developing prescribing guidelines, requiring doctors and other prescribers to take classes on pain management, requiring the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and reducing insurance payment barriers for coverage of alternative pain management treatment.
The governors commit to taking steps to reduce the stigma of addiction and to educate students and student athletes about the danger of opioid addiction.
Other recommended steps involve reducing insurance barriers to substance abuse treatment and expanding access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone.
Update, 3:10 p.m.: After this story was published, the National Governors Association said 46 governors have signed onto the compact.
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