- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Charlie Baker is asking state lawmakers for nearly $28 million in additional funds to help stem a rise in opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts.

His request will be included in a separate appropriations bill Baker plans to file Friday after signing the new $38.1 billion state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Lawmakers must approve his bill.

More than 6,600 people have died because of opioid overdoses in Massachusetts during the past decade. More than 1,000 of those deaths occurred last year - an increase of 33 percent from 2012 and part of an ongoing spike in deaths blamed on prescription drug and heroin abuse.

Baker’s request includes $15.2 million for Department of Public Health substance abuse services, $3.8 million for school-based substance abuse prevention programs, and $3 million for MassHealth substance abuse treatment and prevention initiatives.

He also is asking for $5.8 million to pay for the transfer of women who have been civilly committed for alcohol and substance abuse from a state prison in Framingham to a Department of Mental Health facility.

The initiatives were included in a report delivered to Baker from a working group he named to study the problem earlier this year. The 18-member group made 65 recommendations in the areas of prevention, education, intervention, and treatment and recovery, after holding a series of meetings around the state.

The state budget Baker plans to sign Friday also includes about $111 million for substance abuse treatment - including creating a discounted bulk purchasing program to help cities and towns purchase the overdose-reversing drug Narcan and requiring pharmacies to report opioid prescriptions within 24 hours of filling prescriptions, instead of the current seven days.

Baker is planning to file a separate bill in the coming months with additional initiatives recommended by the working group designed to combat what state officials have described as an epidemic of opioid abuse.

Baker has said the state must work to remove the stigma around opioid addiction, treating it like a chronic medical condition. He also has said the deaths have left no part of the state untouched.

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