Opioids don’t discriminate by race, age, or income and they have impacted countless individuals. It’s important that we remember the people that are behind substance abuse statistics. The fight against the opioid epidemic is a crucial investment to help ensure that all families in our society have the opportunities they need for a bright future.
Supporting the STEP and CARE Act
From early stages, Senator O'Connor has advocated on behalf of both the STEP Act, Governor Charlie Baker’s landmark opioid bill, and the subsequent CARE Act. These pieces of legislation seek to improve access to treatment, prevent opioid misuse, and expand educational efforts throughout the Commonwealth.
Working with Community Education Organizations
Senator O’Connor is active in partnering with community members and law enforcement officials to educate communities about addiction and overdose prevention. In 2017, Senator O’Connor filled legislation which would require school systems to develop an educational lecture that informs students of the severe dangers of opiates, as well as the Good Samaritan Law. Just a few of the organizations that Senator O’Connor supports include the Friends Don’t Let Friends Die card campaign, Duxbury FACTS, and the Weymouth Substance Abuse Prevention Team.
Investing in Treatment, Education and Prevention
In the FY2020 budget, Senator O’Connor is addressing the opioid epidemic by securing funding and promoting policy that provides more treatment, education and prevention in our communities.
Secured funding over the years includes:
- $150.2 million (a 9.4% increase over FY2019) for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services - allowing the bureau to create five new substance abuse recovery centers across Massachusetts and support substance use disorder workforce initiatives.
- $5.5 million for a comprehensive statewide strategy for community-based services.
- Over $1 million to provide first responders and municipalities with discounted Naloxone so they can save more lives when they arrive on the scene of an emergency.
- $1.9 million for programs devoted to supporting law enforcement and investigating fraudulent opioid dispensing and prescribing practices.
More Stringent Penalties Against Fentanyl Trafficking
In 2017, Senator O’Connor filed amendments to the Criminal Justice Reform Bill which would have closed a loophole in our fentanyl and carfentanil trafficking laws. Nearly 2,000 people died in 2019 from opioid overdoses in Massachusetts, and fentanyl was found in the supply of 94% of those who overdosed. While the amendments were not adopted with the bill, Senator O’Connor remains committed to closing this loophole and finding the right balance between giving victims the help they need to fight this disease while enacting justice on those who peddle this poison on our streets.
Standing with Those Affected By Opioid Abuse
In 2019, Senator O’Connor testified alongside constituents Tamika and Walt in favor of his bill “An Act to increase substance use prevention and awareness and reduce overdose abandonment,” which sought to increase community education on the Good Samaritan Law. Tamika first approached Senator O’Connor with the policy after the tragic passing of her son, Khai. Khai’s friends were afraid to call 911 when he overdosed and ultimately they made the decision to call too late. The Good Samaritan Law ensures that anyone who calls 911 to save an overdose victim is immune to prosecution even if they have been dealing with the substance themselves, in hopes that young people will be more likely to make the life saving call. Tamika has used her strength and love for her son to turn such a tragedy into an opportunity to increase safety for all victims of substance use disorder.
Senator O’Connor also secured $40,000 in the FY19 Supplemental Budget to provide a grant to the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Children. These funds will go to assist grandparents who are raising children because their parents have died, are incarcerated, using substances, in treatment, or otherwise unable to take care of them amid the opioid epidemic.
In addition, Senator O'Connor sponsored a budget amendment providing $300,000 for a grant program to study and assist families with newborns born physically dependent on substances (known as neonatal abstinence syndrome). This funding will allow the Health Policy Commission to further explore ways in which they can assist families with substance-exposed newborns.
- Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery
- Sponsored An Act to increase substance use prevention and awareness and reduce overdose abandonment
- Sponsored S386 Fentanyl Task Force
- Sponsored S2378 Fentanyl Interdiction Support
- Cosponsored S604 An Act relative to removing barriers to non-opioid pain management, and H1154 An Act to reduce drug costs through transparency
For a question on any of Senator O’Connor’s votes or policy that he supports please click here to ask us.