The Massachusetts Bill H4062: Informed consent for benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics was scheduled on March 28 to be heard by the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse on Monday, April 4th. Less than a week away! The committee will decide whether the bill moves forward to the house and senate, goes to study, or is denied.
If the bill “goes to study,” it is essentially dead in the water until the next legislative session, and in that case, the bill often dies. It is important that we rally in support of this bill to ensure that it passes this session.
The bill will ensure that patients receive informed consent about the potential dangers of benzodiazepines and Z Drugs (sleeping aids). If the patient is already taking benzodiazpienes or Z Drugs, they will decide whether or not to come off, and if they do choose to come off, a safe and slow taper will be implemented. The bill specifies that the patient decides whether or not they would like to come off benzodiazepines and/or Z Drugs, not the doctor.
What Can You Do To Help?
1.) Attend the Public Hearing
On Monday, April 4th, 2016 at 1:00pm in Hearing Room A-1 at the Massachusetts State House, the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse will hold a Public Hearing on the bill. Anyone can speak, but Massachusetts residents are especially encouraged to participate. If you do want to speak, here are the guidelines:
- The time limit for testimony is 3 minutes.
- Bring 20 written copies of your testimony. 17 for the members of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance and 1 for the clerk. Leaves you a few extra.
- Sign-up to testify usually begins about an hour before the hearing. They take people in the order that they arrive and sign-up. So, if anything, try to be early.
- If you’re going as a group, one person can sign everyone up. That person will need everyone’s name and the bill you are testifying for. It’s H4062: An Act relative to benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics.
- Legislators sit in a single file, but typically not in a prearranged order. They should have name cards in front of them.
- You’ll be testifying from a table in front of the committee. You’ll have a microphone.
- The best testimony is a) clearly intelligible to a smart legislator who – due to the broad nature of the job – may not have deep knowledge on the topic and b) not morally instructive, which is to say that it’s far better to demonstrate impact than make sweeping statements about moral obligation, etc.
2.) Send an E-mail in Support of the Bill by Monday April, 11
It is most important that the committee hears from Massachusetts residents, but anyone from around the world is welcome to write in support of Bill H4062. Please include the following information in your e-mail:
- Full Name
- Town and State (if you live within the U.S.)
- Country (if you live outside of the U.S.)
- Use “Bill H4062” as the subject line
- If you are writing from outside of Massachusetts, include how this bill will affect your state/country. For example, if this bill passes in Massachusetts, you are hoping a similar bill will pass in your own state/country.
Here is draft which you can copy and paste, or personalize as you see fit.
Email to: [email protected]
Subject: Bill H4062
Dear Chairs and Members of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse,
As a resident of Massachusetts, I am asking you to support Bill H4062 sponsored by Representative Paul McMurtry. Benzodiazepines and Z Drugs are very dangerous drugs for certain individuals. Benzodiazepines and Z drugs can cause physical dependence or addiction, and in a sizable minority, can cause a severe central nervous system injury which can take years to recover from. The injury can be so severe that people become disabled. (see article below)
The opiate crisis also intersects with benzodiazepines. Research has shown that when benzodiazepines are mixed with opiates, they potentiate each other and are more likely to lead to an overdose resulting in death. (see article below)
Informed consent will ensure that patients know these risks before taking benzodiazepines and/or Z Drugs. Patients deserve to understand that this class of medication can cause physical dependence or addiction, can sometimes cause a severe and disabling central nervous system injury, and should not be mixed with opiates or alcohol.
Full Name (followed by mailing address)