Baker joins most governors in NGA compact to reduce opioid addiction

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STATE HOUSE — In a National Governors Association compact released Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker and 42 other governors agreed on a number of steps, including some already underway in Massachusetts, to reduce addiction to opioids.

The compact calls for governors to require medical training on addiction, integrate data from prescription monitoring programs into electronic health records, and craft the Medicaid insurance program so it promotes alternative pain management.

The compact gives governors leeway, committing them to take steps to reduce opioid prescribing that “may include” the suggested approaches.

According to a list provided the News Service, the governors of Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Montana and Texas had not signed on as of midday Wednesday. The governors of Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa signed on.

Signatories agreed to “change the nation’s understanding of opioids and addiction,” potentially through social media campaigns, and ensure a “pathway to recovery” for people addicted to drugs, such as increasing access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has opposed easing access to naloxone, arguing its prevalence “produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

Baker in June said the Bay State’s recent opioid law would help form a “national model” for addiction prevention. The Republican governor said both he and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, would make a proposal for limiting initial opioid prescriptions to the National Governors Association.

The national group steered by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert meets in Iowa this week and Baker plans to attend Friday and during the weekend. Baker is chairman of the organization’s Health and Human Services Committee and on Friday he plans to lead an opioid forum with Hassan in Des Moines.

“Bringing governors together around core strategies to end the opioid epidemic adds momentum behind state efforts and sends a clear signal to opioid prescribers and others whose leadership is critical to saving lives,” Baker said in a statement.

According to the association, the compact stems from a resolution the governors passed at February’s Winter Meeting, and at its 2017 Winter Meeting in the nation’s capital the group plans to report “specific steps governors have taken to meet their commitments and build on existing efforts.”

— Written by Andy Metzger