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Community Leaders Meet To Discuss Combatting Opiate Epidemic

Apr 15, 2015 08:00AM ● By Kieran Gilman
(Editor's Note: The following information was submitted by Jacquelyn Goddard.)

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and members of the Mystic Valley Public Health Coalition and the Substance Abuse Collaborative have met to discuss strategies to combat the alarming pace of drug overdose deaths.  Meeting in Reading, members spoke of taking a multi-pronged approach to addressing the opiate epidemic by collaborating on initiatives for treatment, prevention, and education, in addition to prosecuting those who profit from illegal drug distribution and sales.

"Already this year, Middlesex County has had more than 65 drug overdose deaths," District Attorney Ryan told the group.  "In the first three and a half months of this year, Middlesex County has had more overdose deaths than for the entire year in 2012.  It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that we all must continue to partner together because we have a very urgent public health and public safety issue on our hands.  Our initiatives absolutely must include efforts to get more treatment options for those who are addicted, as well as increase the number of prevention and education programs offered so that all members of our community will be aware of the crisis and be active participants in helping to solve the problem."

Those attending the meeting in Reading included nurses, public health officials, elected leaders, Hallmark Health representatives, members of non-profits, and law enforcement officers.

Melrose Police Chief Michael Lyle told the group that local residents have realized that the solutions to the opiate epidemic lie in in part with prevention and treatment, "Heroin and opioids are a problem in every community. In Melrose, we recognize that you cannot simply arrest your way out of this dilemma.  That is why the Melrose Police Department carries nasal Narcan in every patrol car. Every time we successfully use Narcan, we are giving a victim of the drug epidemic another chance to turn their life around."

The Mystic Valley Public Health Coalition includes the towns of Malden, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham, Wakefield, and Reading.  In 2012, the state Department of Public Health awarded the Coalition $100,000 per year for three years to help reduce the number of overdoses, improve the response to overdoses when they do occur, and curb the misuse of prescription opioids.
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