Opioid bill passes House unanimously

By Amelia Tarallo; July 26, 2018; Hometown Weekly

It is no longer unusual to know someone who has become a victim of the opioid epidemic.

Almost every town has seen residents struggle with addiction within the last five years. In 2016 alone, Medfield, Needham, Sherborn, Wellesley, and Westwood each had at least one person who died because of an opioid.

Unfortunately, the epidemic doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all.

The number of deaths due to opioids has been on the rise over the last 17 years. From 2000 until 2016, Norfolk County saw 1,284 opioid-related deaths. By 2017, the number had risen to 1,438. Middlesex County recorded 2,593 opioid-related deaths from 2000 until 2016. In 2017, the number had increased to 2,905. There seems to be no sign of these deaths slowing down without any intervention. Instead, it appears that they are increasing at a rapid pace.

These numbers also do not account for the those who are profoundly affected by drug addiction in other ways. There are children who have been born addicted to drugs, and consequently suffer long-term side effects because of it. There are children who have been abandoned by one or both their parents because of drug addiction. There are medical professionals who have been seeking ways to handle this influx of addiction and overdoses within their communities.

A new bill, however, may give new hope to those suffering from addictions and their loved ones. Bill H.4742, an act for prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction, recently passed the State House unanimously with 147 votes.

Bill H.4742 is split into three sections. The first, “Prevention,” outlines steps created to prevent more cases of addiction. It includes allowing patients to only partially fill opioid prescriptions at a time, without paying additional co-pays. It also forbids any discounts and rebates for prescribed opiates, making it more difficult for addicts to afford these medications. Additionally, it instructs providers to check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) before issuing any prescription for a benzodiazepine. The PMP provides providers with information on substances that may lead to addiction.

The second section of the bill, “Strengthen and Expand the Behavioral Health System,” establishes steps to help improve addiction-related healthcare. This section notes establishing “statewide remote consultation programs for substance use disorder,” as well as increased access to appropriate treatment involving primary care. It also includes the new requirement for electronic prescribing for all controlled substances (with few exceptions) starting in 2020.

The final section, “Treatment and Recovery,” includes new programs to help treat those with addictions. This section includes increasing access to Narcan, an opioid-blocking drug that is often used to treat overdoses, without an individual prescription. It also establishes a “two-year pilot programs to offer medication-assisted treatment at 6 prisons.” It also provides a new Center for Police Training in Crisis Intervention to aid law enforcement in their attempts to stop their epidemic. Additionally, it provides a “commission to study and make recommendations on the certification of Recovery Coaches.” Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it includes the establishment of a commission to study addiction treatment, such as “long-term relapse rates, overdose risk, legal implications, and capacity of the voluntary treatment system.”

At the moment, it is unknown whether or not Bill H.4742 will lower the number of opioid deaths in Massachusetts each year. However, Representatives Garlick and Dooley are hopeful that it will work.

In a press release about the bill, Representative Shawn Dooley expressed the significance and the importance of addressing the epidemic. “The opioid crisis is by far and away the number one public health crisis in the Commonwealth,” said Dooley. “As a firefighter and EMT I see this issue plaguing our communities here in the 9th Norfolk District. This isn’t just a city issue, it isn’t just a rural issue, it isn’t just a regional issue, it is a statewide plague that we must work to stop. I am proud to have not only supported but also contributed to this important bill. It is by no means the last step, however. We must continue to work to fight this societal evil.”

“The legislation looks to the future and says that a focus on prevention in the community and strengthening and expanding the behavioral health system will stem the tide,” read a statement from Representative Denise Garlick, chairperson of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “It looks to the present and says, ‘we are in this battle together to save lives through care and treatment,’ addressing the urgency that this is truly a life or death issue throughout the Commonwealth. Many of the resources in this bill will be available immediately — removing barriers to desperately needed care and giving individuals, families and communities the tools they need, when they need them, where they need them.”

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House approves Old Town Hall funds


Representative Kafka (D-Stoughton), Representative Rogers (D-Norwood), Representative McMurtry (D-Dedham), and Representative Dooley (R-Norfolk) joined with their colleagues in the House on Tuesday to pass a $666 million economic development bond bill (H.4714) that includes $1,000,000 for the redevelopment of the Old Town Hall in Walpole. The iconic building, located at 972 Main St., is over 130 years old and on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The Old Town hall is a signature building in Walpole,” said Representative Louis L. Kafka. “The money that was allocated in this bill will go a long way to bringing it back to its former glory.”

“Old Town Hall is a historic and storied building which has played many different roles in its 130 year history,” said Representative Paul McMurtry. “It is our responsibility to protect Walpole’s historic town treasure for future generations and this Bond Bill authorization is the first step in doing just that.”

“It was an absolute pleasure to work with the entire Walpole delegation to get this funding included in the house economic development bill,” said Representative Shawn Dooley. “The taxpayers of Walpole deserve a state government that is responsive to their needs and dedicated to their priorities. I can think of no better way to return their hard earned money than by helping to redevelop and repurpose this Walpole landmark for the benefit of all in our community.”

Representative Rogers remarked: “There are many people in Walpole working hard to envision the next phase of Old Town Hall’s long life of service. I am very glad my colleagues in the House of Representatives and I were able to make our contribution to this endeavor, which will go a long way in the redevelopment and protection of this beautiful old building which is the centerpiece of downtown and will hopefully be a magnet for economic development and growth for generations to come.”

This bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. If enacted, this bill will provide authorization for the administration to borrow up to $1,000,000 for renovation; the final decision to borrow the money rests with Governor Baker.

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Representative Dooley Focuses On Funding For Local Projects In State Budget

BOSTON – Last week State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) joined with his colleagues in the House of Representatives and State Senate to approve a $41.88 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2019. After a lot of hard work; advocacy; and collaboration with area legislators, Representative Dooley was proudly able to get several important lines of funding included for key projects in his district. The budget now sits before Governor Charlie Baker who has until July 28th to review it.

For Dooley’s district, which encompasses Norfolk; Plainville; and Wrentham as well as parts of Millis; Medfield; and Walpole, highlights of the FY19 budget include:

  • $100,000 for school safety improvements in the King Philip, Norfolk, Plainville, and Wrentham Public School Districts
  • $50,000 for improvements to the City Mills Dam in Norfolk
  • $50,000 for the purchase of a new van for senior citizen transportation in Millis
  • Mitigation funding for the Town of Wrentham for hosting the Wrentham Developmental Center
  • Prison mitigation funding for MCI-Norfolk and MCI-Cedar Junction
  • $30,000 for a suicide awareness campaign in Medfield
  • $60,000 for the renovation of the Millis High School auditorium
  • $50,000 for improvements to Joe Morgan Field in Walpole
  • $75,000 for the renovation of the Old Walpole Town Hall

“I am ecstatic to have helped fund such large investments in my district” said Dooley. “From day one my goal has been to make sure that the taxpayers of my district are able to benefit from a state government that is responsive to their needs. These key funding items are certainly a step in that direction. I am hopeful that Governor Baker will work with us to sign these allocations into law.”

In addition to these projects, the budget provides for increased local aid for cities and towns along with significant investments in mental health, substance abuse, education, and elder services.

Mental health and substance abuse programs will see significant funding increases this year with the budget providing for an increase of $102.5 million to $488.7 million for adult community mental health services. The Bureau of Substance Abuse Services is also scheduled to receive $9.3 million more than last year and funding for secure treatment facilities for opiate addiction will jump from $1.9 million to $5 million, a one-year increase of 157.7%.

Additionally, a total of $4.91 billion is allocated in the budget for public elementary and secondary school educational aid, also known as Chapter 70, which represents a statewide increase of $160.6 million, or 3.4%, over Fiscal Year 2018 levels. Local school districts will also benefit from increases in the Special Education Circuit Breaker and Regional School Transportation accounts. Circuit breaker reimbursements have been funded at $319.3 million, an increase of $25.6 million over Fiscal Year 2018, while Regional School Transportation has been increased by $7.4 million, to a total of $68.9 million.

Finally, the budget includes $17.8 million in grants to local Councils on Aging while providing for a grant rate of $12 per elder compared to $9.70 per elder last year. Funding for elder protective services and elder home care case management is set at $31.6 million and $58.9 million, representing increases of $2.9 million and $6.7 million, respectively.

“I’ve yet to see a perfect budget in my time as a legislator, and this one is no exception” said Dooley. “We continue to spend and spend without addressing the primary cost drivers in our budget and exploring areas where we can save. That being said, I am hopeful that this budget is a step in the right direction. I was excited to see the focus on mental health, education, and elder services this year. All of these areas are areas that we continue to underfund year after year, yet play a huge role in the lives of almost everyone in the Commonwealth. From the opiate crisis to student performance to health care, I think the investments we made will result in big improvements here in the Commonwealth and hopefully help take pressure off of the budgets of our cities and towns.”

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State Representative Shawn Dooley Appointed To Conference Committee On Automatic Voter Registration Bill

BOSTON – On Monday Massachusetts House of Representatives Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) announced that he is appointing State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk), a former town clerk in Norfolk, to the conference committee that will be authoring the final compromise version of the automatic voter registration bill recently passed in both the House and Senate. The bill, which revamps the Commonwealth’s current voter registration system by automatically registering anyone who interacts with MassHealth or the RMV to vote, was passed in the House of Representatives on June 27th and in the Senate on Monday. The versions passed by each chamber are slightly different, mainly in regards to the technical processes used to actually register the voters, so the conference committee, consisting of 3 members from each chamber, must iron out these differences and create a final version of the bill to send to Governor Charlie Baker. Dooley will be joined by fellow Representatives Michael Moran (D-Boston) and John Mahoney (D-Worcester) as well as Senators Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), and Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) on the committee

“As a former Town Clerk who has an in-depth knowledge of Massachusetts election laws, Shawn was the natural choice to be the conferee to the Automatic Voter Registration conference committee” said Leader Jones about his decision to appoint Dooley to the committee.

“I am honored to have been selected to be on this conference committee by Minority Leader Jones” said Dooley. “In my time as a Town Clerk it became abundantly clear to me that Massachusetts needed to make increasing our voter participation rate and protecting our election systems from fraud and abuse a priority. I hope that as a member of this committee, I am able to help craft this bill to achieve these important goals.”

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State Representative Shawn Dooley Supports Ongoing Efforts To Address State Opioid Crisis

BOSTON – In an attempt to address the growing state opioid crisis, State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk), also a Plainville firefighter and EMT as well as a board member of the local SAFE Coalition, was proud to support legislation that passed in the House of Representatives on July 11th to expand Massachusetts’ comprehensive 2016 opioid law by increasing treatment options for individuals suffering from drug addiction. The bill also included a partial fill prescription initiative that is based off a bill Dooley had previously filed.

H.4725 An Act for prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction places new mandates on practitioners and pharmacies prescribing opioids and other controlled substances, while taking steps to ensure qualified treatment facilities are available to serve those in need by enhancing the regulatory and licensing authority of the Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the Department of Public Health (DPH).

The bill also includes a partial fill prescription initiative that Dooley originally proposed in a stand-alone bill. The program would allow patients to only partially fill prescriptions for certain addictive drugs to test out them out and see how they work. Patients would then be allowed to fill the rest of the prescription without additional payment. Dooley hopes that this will cut down on the number of excess pills in people’s home that are, often, ripe for misuse.

“The opioid crisis is by far and away the number one public health crisis in the Commonwealth” said Dooley. “As a firefighter and EMT I see this issue plaguing our communities here in the 9th Norfolk District. This isn’t just a city issue, it isn’t just a rural issue, it isn’t just a regional issue, it is a statewide plague that we must work to stop. I am proud to have not only supported but also contributed to this important bill. It is by no means the last step, however. We must continue to work to fight this societal evil.”

Dooley also noted that he thinks the bill could have been even stronger. He sponsored an amendment that would allow a treating physician to hold a patient involuntarily for 72 hours for treatment, evaluation, and counseling if they are experiencing an opiate-related overdose and had experienced at least one other within the last 30 days. The measure, which Governor Charlie Baker had expressed support for, was shot down by the majority party. “I was disappointed in the majority party for rejecting this measure” said Dooley. “This is our last substantive chance to legislatively address this crisis until next year, and I would have liked to have made it as strong as possible. I hope that this provision is included in the Senate version of the bill, and we are able to work it into the final compromise bill.”

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State Rep. Shawn Dooley Pushes For $200,000 For Wrentham Highway Ramp

BOSTON – State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) is pleased to announce that after a lot of hard work, he was able to get $200,000 included in a recent House of Representatives economic development bill for the Town of Wrentham to construct a new ramp from I-495 located near the Wrentham Outlets and Route 1A. This issue has been a long-standing priority for the Town of Wrentham and will help streamline the flow of traffic and decrease congestion at the intersection. The bill must now go through the Senate for debate and a vote.

The funding was included as an amendment to H.4714, an economic development bond bill, which has the goal of financing economic development across the Commonwealth. The $200,000 received is a part of a larger $116.9 million of authorized spending to fund various local projects. Along with improving local communities and infrastructure, H.4714 creates a sales tax holiday from August 11-12, puts $300 million towards public infrastructure; economic development; and job creation, as well as establishes many grants dedicated to institutes of higher education.

“I’m very glad to have had this funding included for Wrentham” said Dooley. “Not only will this money go towards improving the lives of the thousands of drivers that travel in this area every day by eliminating bottlenecks and reducing traffic congestion, but it will also spur economic development in Wrentham and the entire region. From day one I have worked to bring as much money as possible back to the taxpayers of my district; and I am hopeful that the Senate will include this funding in their version of the bill.”

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Local lawmakers back bill aimed at opioid crisis

By Jim Hand; July 10, 2018; The Sun Chronicle
Local lawmakers say they support a House bill aimed at addressing the state’s opioid crisis, although it lacks a few provisions they were hoping for.
A vote on the legislation is expected as soon as Wednesday.
The representatives said addiction to opioids and the overdoses that come with it are one of the biggest problems they face. Police, doctors and families of addicts are constantly asking them for action, they said Tuesday.
“We’re in a crisis. We’re in an epidemic,” state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said.
The state says 2,016 people died of overdoses last year in Massachusetts, a 6 percent decrease from the year before.
Dooley said he backs the bill because it has a lot of good ideas, although it lacks some he wanted.
One provision, which he previously proposed as a separate bill, would allow patients to take only a portion of their prescription for painkillers from a pharmacy “to see how it goes,” he said.
If the patient needs the rest of the prescription, they could go back and get it without making another co-payment.
The idea is encourage patients to bring home fewer drugs to avoid having excess pills lying around the house that could be misused, he said.
Dooley said he is disappointed the bill does not include a proposal he, Gov. Charlie Baker and others made to give doctors the authority to order a patient who has overdosed to be held for three days without court approval.
It was in the original version of the bill but House Speaker Robert DeLeo reportedly disapproved of it.
Dooley said it is a commonsense idea that he believes would help doctors.
“It’s another tool in their tool box,” he said.
He said he would offer an amendment to put it back in the bill.
Robin Hamlin of Plainville, who heads a local support group for the families of addicts called Unconditional Love, said she is glad the state is addressing the problem because previous attempts have not gone far enough.
“A lot more is needed,” she said.
Hamlin, whose son died of an overdose, said one of the most glaring problems is a shortage of beds in treatment centers.
“There are not enough places to go around,” she said.
She said an addict in crisis cannot be expected to wait for openings.
Dooley, however, said it appears funding for additional beds is not in the bill.
State Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, said more treatment beds is probably the most common suggestion he hears from police, doctors and families.
The bill will also call for keeping prescriptions records electronically so addicts cannot go “doctor shopping” and keep getting more bills, he said.
Hawkins said addressing opioid problems is one of the largest issues facing the state and a top priority for him.
He has been meeting with police and other officials on the issue and attended a forum sponsored by state Sen. Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro, on the matter.
Elected in a special election in April, Hawkins said he will give his “maiden speech” in the House Wednesday and it will be on the opioid crisis.

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Automatic voter registration passes House, splits local delegation

By Jim Hand; June 28, 2018; The Sun Chronicle

Citizens who renew their driver’s licenses or enroll in state health care would automatically become registered voters under a bill passed by the Massachusetts House.

The bill, which the House passed Wednesday, still needs the approval of the Senate and governor, but supporters said it would help increase voter turnout in elections. If adopted into law, eligible people who do business with the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth would automatically become registered voters.

Local city and town clerks would send them a postcard to designate themselves as a Democrat, Republican or independent. The card would also give the person the opportunity to opt out of being a registered voter.

The local House delegation was divided over the bill. State Reps. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, and Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, voted for it while Reps. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, and Jay Barrows, RMansfield, opposed it.

Hawkins said he supported it because there are 700,000 eligible voters in Massachusetts who are not registered and the bill would help fix that.

“We should make it easier to vote,” he said.

Hawkins noted that most people no longer visit city halls because they pay their bills and do other transactions online, so they don’t see the voter registration office.

Supporters said the legislation could increase voting by 5 percent.

Dooley said he has his doubts about how effective the bill will be, but as a former town clerk he is in favor of almost any measure to get more participation in elections.

He said he got two amendments attached to the bill. One will have Massachusetts contribute to a national database of voters and the other would require the state to train local election commissioners.

The opponents said they feared the cost of running the program would fall to cities and towns with no state aid. “It puts a tremendous burden on the towns,” Poirier said, noting that North Attleboro only has two people working in its elections office.

Barrows said another consideration he had is that inaccurate information could get into the voting rolls. He also said he believes automatic registration goes too far.

Howitt said he believes it is already easy to register to vote if people are willing to make the effort.

“If a person wants to vote, they will make the effort to vote,” he said.

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