Bill Pays for Hospital Beds Rather Than Prison for Female Addicts

Rep. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

Money to allow female drug addicts to receive hospitalization rather than imprisonment passed the Massachusetts House last week, according to Rep. Diana DiZoglio.

DiZoglio, who has advocated moving such patients out of houses of correction and into hospitals, hailed the House’s passage of $5.8 million for treatment alternatives.

“Addicts deemed a danger to themselves or others need counseling and treatment, but the Section 35 law needs to be updated,” said DiZoglio. “That is why this past January, I filed legislation to move addicts committed under Section 35 out of prisons and into hospitals,” DiZoglio said. Because of an increase in opiate addiction, there has been a 67 percent increase in commitments since 2006, said DiZoglio.

She explained, Section 35 of state law, allow persons battling substance abuse to be involuntarily committed at the request of a family member, doctor, guardian or police officer if they are deemed a risk to themselves or others. “Given the lack of treatment beds, however, women committed under Section 35 are often sent to MCI-Framingham, the only prison for women in the commonwealth. Men are sent to the prison in Bridgewater but unlike women at Framingham, receive treatment under medical supervision. Women at Framingham are strip-searched, given prison uniforms and housed with pretrial detainees,” DiZoglio’s office said in a press release.

DiZoglio’s bill, “An Act relative to safe in-patient alcoholism or substance abuse treatment,” had a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse in September.

“When there are no treatment beds at licensed facilities remaining, women committed under this statute have received unsatisfactory treatment while suffering the trauma of imprisonment,” said DiZoglio. “We must provide these women with comprehensive treatment, not jail time.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker also filed legislation to prohibit women from being civilly committed at Framingham.

“I am grateful to Governor Baker for his prioritizing of this issue as his administration addresses the commonwealth’s opioid epidemic and also want to thank House Ways and Means Chairman Brian S. Dempsey for his leadership in ensuring these critical funds were included in the House supplemental budget,” said DiZoglio.