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Boston Program to Combat Injured Workers’ Opioid Addictions

The greater Boston area has a serious problem with opioid addiction among broad sectors of industry. In some cases, it’s heroin and other illicit street drugs. However, we are also seeing a major problem with an addition to prescription painkillers among injured workers, according to a recent news article from the Lowell Sun.

needleThis statewide problem has gotten to the point where Governor Charlie Baker and his administration have decided to start a two-year pilot program. This pilot program is for workers in Boston and around the Commonwealth who have already settled their workers’ compensation cases. All of the workers who will participate in this program are currently being treated with opioid-based painkillers for their on-the-job injuries.

These workers are also in cases in which the workers’ compensation insurance company is trying to stop paying for any more opioid medications. This is a fairly common problem where patients take the medication to help with very real pain, but then get addicted to painkillers.  They then lose the medication because the workers’ compensation insurance company no longer desires to pay for the meds.  At this point, many will stop, but addiction can be very difficult to deal with.

Some will turn to buying prescriptions from others or just heading out to the streets and buying heroin.  We have even seen high profile cases, such as the one where a Massachusetts State Police trooper robbed a drug store with his state issued Glock firearm to get OxyContin.  This was caught on store surveillance cameras, and he was recognized by his fellow troopers and quickly arrested. While this may seem extreme, and it is, it shows just how powerful addiction can be.  Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys have worked with many victims of on-the-job accidents that left them trying to cope with serious pain.  Any program that can help these victims is certainly worth trying.

For reasons that are still being discussed by policy workers and public health sector officials, statistics show that workers in the Commonwealth who are injured on the job end up getting an average of 10 percent more prescriptions for painkillers than the average of half of the states in the nation. There is also a higher percentage of stronger opioids being prescribed in Massachusetts than in many other states. For example, where someone might get Tylenol with codeine (Tylenol 3) in one state, they would likely get a high milligram does of OxyContin in Massachusetts, and that is something about which state officials are concerned.

This new program is voluntary for both the injured worker and the insurance company who are in a dispute.  Instead of fighting it out in court for a year, during which time the worker is likely taking the opioids, the case will be assigned a care management coordinator who will try to balance the needs of both parties and try to find treatments other than opioid medications.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

New pilot aims to curb opioid addiction among injured workers, December 8, 2016, By Colin A. Young, Lowell Sun

More Blog Entries:

Scope of Employment in Workers’ Compensation Cases, March 29, 2016, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog