MMS Testimony In Support of H 1903 an Act Promoting Substance Abuse Prevention through Positive Social Norms Marketing

Before the Joint Committee on Public Health

The Massachusetts Medical Society wishes to be recorded in strong support of House 1903 and commends Representative Cantwell for taking the lead in recognizing the importance of reaching out to young people to help them make good decisions about their futures. Social norms marketing is based on the central concept of social norms theory – that much of people’s behavior is influenced by their perceptions of what is “normal” or “typical.”

The Massachusetts Medical Society believes that positive social norms marketing is a key tool in helping young people to make proper choices which will prevent their involvement with substance abuse in particular. One of our members, Dr. Michael Guidi, is a family practitioner in Merrimac and also serves on the MMS Committee on Student and Sports Medicine, he was not able to be here today because of the demands of his practice but offers the following comment:

“I became very concerned about the prevalence of substance use I was seeing in my family practice and began researching effective intervention methods. I found an abundance of research supporting mindfulness practice as a highly effective modality in the prevention and treatment of substance use. With that information and the desire to reach out to the wider community, I approached Family Services of Merrimack Valley (FSMV) and their many collaborative partners to bring this prevention model to the City of Lawrence youth in a pilot program, which I can report is being funded in part with a $25,000 grant from the Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation.

We will target at-risk students ages 12 through 18 in both school and community settings with expectations that we will reach 40 – 50 students with 2 cohorts of 25 kids in each. Questionnaires will solicit feedback on participants’ knowledge and behavior and the curriculum will be adjusted based on those reports.”

The MMS is very proud to have a role in promoting and funding a collaborative effort led by the FSMV with the greater Lawrence Family Health Ctr., the Lawrence Substance Abuse Task Force, Dr. Guidi from the MMS and Lahey Health and advisors from the UMass Medical Center. They will develop and implement a pilot mindfulness-based curriculum for at risk students’ ages 12 to 18. The goal is to reduce the rate of substance abuse among teens by building their skills to identify, express and manage native emotions through instruction in mindfulness practices. The one- year project will include developing a curriculum; piloting the curriculum with two cohorts; conducting an evaluation; and developing a sustainability plan. House 1903 would allow the Department of Public Health to use available funding to establish similar programs throughout the state should the pilot project have the impact we expect.

At the MMS, we recognize the impact that heroin and opioids are having throughout the Commonwealth. We recently issued prescribing guidelines for physicians for the use of opioids in treating acute and chronic pain. We are increasing the number of medical education programs available on line for physicians on pain management and related issues and making them available to all prescribers free of charge. 

We have adopted policies which help inform the MMS leadership and our members on reducing substance use and improving mental health in youth which state:

  1. That the Massachusetts Medical Society encourage all primary care practitioners to perform in office physical examinations annually on all adolescents and young adults emphasizing an accurate history regarding the use of illicit drugs, including prescription and non-prescription. 
  2. That the Massachusetts Medical Society support greater inclusion of behavioral health, including wrap around services, within primary care settings. The MMS supports the elimination of obstacles for payment of these services.
  3. That the Massachusetts Medical Society advocate for in-school coordinators to assist students and students’ families with access to mental health counseling as needed. 
  4. That the Massachusetts Medical Society provide information on mental health, addiction medicine and substance use to physicians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and physicians-in-training. 

The MMS urges the Committee on Public Health to support H 1903 and support future funding for initiatives designed to help give our young people the skills necessary to cope with the threats and challenges of substance abuse and addiction.

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