State Sen. Paul Feeney’s (D-Foxboro) plan to help victims of date rape drugs received a boost in support from the Massachusetts Senate.
The Senate approved an amendment filed by Feeney to the Fiscal Year ‘24 budget allocating $300,000 to the Department of Public Health’s Division of Sexual and Domestic Violence Services to launch a public awareness campaign and establish measures to prevent future incidents. Additionally, the amendment authorizes the bulk purchase of test kits to detect the presence of illicit substances in drinks to be distributed at bars, restaurants and nightlife establishments in Massachusetts.
Feeney announced the amendment’s passage on May 25.
“Massachusetts has allowed a patchwork response to this crisis and we have not yet caught up as a Commonwealth to what’s actually happening on the ground,” Feeney said. “This amendment commits real, evidence-based solutions to this growing crisis, and I want all the victims and individuals affected to know that we see you and that we are committed to helping solve this problem.”
In a speech on the Senate floor, Feeney said efforts to combat date rape drug incidents were inadequate and the state is not moving fast enough to find solutions.
“These incidents are all too common, and we’ve seen countless warnings from law enforcement: use the buddy system, cover your drink, and don’t leave your drink unattended,” Feeney said. “Yet reports of these incidents persist, and the Commonwealth’s response is still catching up to the onslaught of these reports,”
Despite overwhelming support in the Senate, the amendment faces review in the legislative Conference Committee, where House and Senate members reconcile differences to create a compromise budget bill. Depending on their decisions, the committee could either keep or remove the amendment in the final bill.
n January 2023, Feeney learned of one of his constituents, who had been denied additional care at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston despite being a victim of a date rape drug. The following month, Feeney filed legislation that would require the Massachusetts Department of Health to establish a Date Rape Drug Response and Intervention Task Force.
The task force would be responsible for tracking confirmed drugging incidents and issuing recommendations on standardizing care and testing at hospitals regardless if someone was sexually assaulted or not. The bill has gained bipartisan support from state Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) who is a co-sponsor.
“Survivors shouldn’t have to play hospital roulette and guess which provider is going to test them for being involuntarily drugged at a nightclub,” Feeney said. “Whether you are at a bar in Boston, Barnstable or in Attleboro, victims should know with confidence that they can walk into an emergency room, get the testing they need, and confirm whether they have been drugged.”
The legislation was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health for a public hearing on June 6 at the Gardner Auditorium at the State House.