Testimony in Opposition to An Act Relative to Drug Overdose Deaths Before the Joint Committee on Public Health

The Massachusetts Medical Society wishes to be recorded in strong opposition to H.2435, An Act relative to drug overdose deaths.

H. 2435 would require physicians to report cases of persons suspected of “suspected of dying from injuries resulting from opiate, illegal or illicit drug overdose” to both state and local police.

The Medical Society strongly supports the collection and analysis of robust data on opioid overdose mortality, but provisions to support such data collection are already in place under the existing law. The law that this bill seeks to amend already contains a provision requiring healthcare institutions to report “cases of examination or treatment of a person with injuries resulting from opiate, illegal or illicit drug overdose” to the Department of Public Health, in a manner compliant with federal laws. If passed, this legislation would therefore create a redundant and administratively onerous requirement on the already overburdened physicians who care for this vulnerable and underserved patient population.

Furthermore, this legislation would require the reporting of opioid deaths to both state and local police, thereby perpetuating the stigmatization of the opioid epidemic. Opioid use disorder is a chronic relapsing disease, and death from that disease ought not to be criminalized. These data therefore ought to be reported to directly to the Department of Public Health, not to state or local police, per the Massachusetts laws already in place at present.

The Medical Society continues to work with the legislature and with fellow stakeholders to combat the opioid epidemic through evidence-based legislation and policy.

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