MA BENZO BILL HD.H3594

The State Library of Massachusetts, in Boston. This image was taken by Lauren Omartian before presenting testimony for the Benzo Bill on April 4, 2016.

 Information as of June 2017

In this video, Geraldine Burns (W-BAD’s U.S. Representative) gives a brief summary of the bills pending hearing in the House and Senate of Massachusetts (as of May 2017):

  Click on CC for captions in English. To contribute translations of this video in another language, click here.

This Session’s House and Senate Bills (2017):

To learn how you can help support these two bills from anywhere in the world, go here. To learn how you can help support from Massachusetts, go here and click on ‘Massachusetts’ as your state.

This session, Representative McMurtry has filed the legislation again with a few small changes that are aimed at making it more palatable for everyone involved. H3594 was once again assigned to the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, but has yet to receive a hearing date.

What are the specifics of the Bill?

  • Practitioners must obtain patients’ written informed consent regarding information on misuse and abuse by adults and children, risk of dependency and addiction and risks associated with long-term use.
  • Pharmacists must ensure that prescription labels include a bolded cautionary statement concerning risks associated with long-term use.
  • The Department of Public Health will produce pamphlets to be distributed by pharmacists which contain educational information on misuse and abuse by children and adults, risk of dependency and addiction, storage and disposal, addiction treatment resources and a telephone helpline operated by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.
  • Written prescriptions for less than a 10-day supply will not be refilled.
  • A special commission of nine members will study safe discontinuation protocols to minimize withdrawal symptoms. They must report back to the legislature within four months. The commission will be made up of legislators, a psychiatrist, the secretary of health and human services, the commissioners of public health and mental health (or their designees), representatives from the Bureau of Substance Abuse, Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and the “addiction treatment community.” (This is a change from the original version which called for The Department of Public Health to establish and enforce specific discontinuation regulations.)

You can view the current House bill here.

Note: A second benzodiazepine bill appears in the Senate.

Senator Eileen Donoghue has an interest in benzodiazepines. She liked the bill from the previous session and submitted it to the Senate. It should look familiar, as it is last year’s House bill. When the bills are heard, it will be the same day. This means there will be testimony submitted in TWO bills—one in the House, one in the Senate—on the same day.

Additional reading on this sessions Bills:
Article One

Article Two

Testifying in support of these bills:

The hearing for these bills is scheduled to be held at the Massachusetts State House, Beacon Street, Boston, MA in September (Date/Time: To be Announced). Anyone wishing to testify should be prepared to give a 3-minute speech. This is a Massachusetts Bill, so you should be a Massachusetts resident to speak. The more Massachusetts residents that appear to testify in support of the bills, the better. If you are attending, please e-mail gcburns55@aol.com. Follow the Mass Benzo Bill Facebook Page to stay connected.

Garnering Support for these bills:

While all support for the bills is appreciated, they badly need support from Massachusetts state residents. If you have friends and/or family in MA, please contact them and ask that they submit letters in support of these bills.


Previous Session’s House Bill (2016):

Representative Paul McMurtry, a Dedham, MA Democrat introduced the Benzo Bill in the 2nd half of the previous Massachusetts legislative session as an unseasonably filed bill. We were not guaranteed a hearing, but we were hopeful that the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery would take it up. At the time of the filing, we received excellent support from both the House and Senate with 47 members of the legislature joining as co-sponsors of the bill. Representative McMurtry’s office began accepting personal testimonies from anyone interested in sharing their experience with Benzodiazepines; hundreds of testimonies poured in and were submitted to the members of the Committee to review.

Finally, on April 4th, 2016 the bill received a hearing. The hearing was originally scheduled to only be 2 hours long but ran significantly over the schedule with many people traveling from other states and long distances in the snow to testify in person in front of the Committee. Ultimately, the bill was sent to study at the end of session, which was expected given how new the legislation was and the outcry from the medical community. What was important is that public discourse about Benzodiazepine prescribing practices had begun with the hearing and that there was hope in the future for this legislation to pass.

 

To view the previous session’s bill, click here.

Additional reading on previous session’s bill:

Article One
Article Two

Some of the testimony for the bill on April 4, 2016: