Boston — Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, testified Tuesday before the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery to voice his opinions on Gov. Charlie Baker’s newly filed opioid legislation during a hearing that also included two hours of testimony from the governor himself.
Pignatelli expressed to the committee – chaired by Rep. Denise Garlick, D-Needham, and Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington – that, while he supports measures including additional oversight from the Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health in the licensure of treatment facilities and the availability of treatments, he believes it is time to move away from commissions.
Baker’s bill introduces a number of new commissions to assess trends in prescription practices and opioid consumption and report back to the state. While Pignatelli agreed that data is necessary and useful, he urged legislators to take a firmer look at the information that’s already available on the successes of alternative pain management treatments and curb the opioid epidemic from the front end.
He spoke on legislation that he introduced earlier this session in partnership with Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, that requires the Center for Health Information and Analysis to develop reasonable standards of mental health, substance use disorder and pain management services to provide to insurance carriers across Massachusetts so they may create alternative pain management plans to be submitted to the Division of Insurance for approval. According to advocates and Pignatelli himself, this bill does not mandate any specific types of alternative pain treatments be covered but rather encourages insurances to create alternative pain-management plans for themselves and requires that they do so before receiving necessary accreditation from the DOI.
“I understand the need to access and utilize effective data in our approach, but as the opiate epidemic worsens we cannot wait for studies and commissions to repeat findings of scientific literature that already exist when we could be actively utilizing effective research-based tools to decrease the circulation of prescription opiates in the market and improve the scope of substance abuse treatments in our communities,” Pignatelli said.