Gov. Baker, AD Healy Unveil Plan To Tackle Opiate Abuse Epidemic
Jun 24, 2015 02:18PM
By Bill Gilman
Gov. Baker discusses the state initiative for tackling opioid addiction and abuse.
(Editor's note: The following information is based on a press release issued by the office of Gov. Charlie Baker.)
BOSTON – Vowing to change the way the Commonwealth treats and even thinks about substance addiction, Gov. Charlie Baker today released the findings of his Opioid Working Group, a comprehensive report detailing 65 actionable steps to curb the deadly opioid epidemic.
The findings by the 18-member Working Group include short and long term action items to be implemented between now and the next three years, some requiring legislative action and funding and some will be achieved through partnerships with private industry and federal leaders.
“Opioid abuse is a public health epidemic and I applaud our working group for producing these recommendations based on a comprehensive analysis,” said Baker. “The solution to eradicating opioids is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and will require all of us to rethink the way we treat addiction. Today’s announcements are a first step and we will aggressively pursue reforms to save lives.”
Tewksbury Police Chief Timothy Sheehan has, in the past, called opiate addiction and crimes related to it, the No. 1 problem facing his community today. According to TPD statistics, in 2014 there were 147 narcotics arrests, another 104 OUI (drugs or alcohol) arrests and another 64 arrests for breaking and entering or burglary, which Sheehan has said is often tied to drug addiction.
“This epidemic has already torn apart too many families and communities in the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This report contains recommendations that were carefully and thoroughly collected from every corner of our state and we look forward to taking swift actions to combat the opioid epidemic.”
“While opioid addiction is an urgent problem, it is also a chronic medical disease, not unlike diabetes or heart disease,”said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Chair of the Working Group. “The solution requires a strong public health approach focusing on prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. We must also target education and awareness about the potential misuse of opioids to students and their families.”
“The opiate crisis is impacting families from every community across the Commonwealth,” Attorney General Maura Healey said. “Today’s report is a roadmap to comprehensively addressing this public health crisis and offering help to families who truly need it. I want to thank Governor Baker, Secretary Sudders, and every member of this commission for their collaboration, dedication and leadership on this issue. Now the real work begins to implement these recommendations.”
The announcement comes just days after the launch of a statewide public service campaign to alert parents about the dangers of prescription opioid misuse by their kids. The report calls for additional public awareness initiatives to decrease stigma of the disease.
The cost of implementing the initiatives will currently be $27 million in Fiscal Year ‘16, which will be paid for through a combination of new state funds, MassHealth, and reprioritization of existing state and federal grant funds.
The Commonwealth started addressing the opioid epidemic in 2004, when 456 individuals died of opioid overdoses. Since then, more than 6,600 members of our communities have died, in addition to an overwhelming amount of hospital stays, emergency department visits and human suffering. According to the Department of Public Health, there were over 1,000 estimated unintentional opioid related deaths in 2015, representing a significant increase from the estimated 967 deaths in 2014. The number of opioid-related overdose deaths was nearly triple the amount of motor vehicle-related injuries recorded in 2013.
Prevention: Support substance use prevention education in schools, medical communities, all communities
Intervention: Require manufacturers and pharmacies to utilize data, dispose of unused medication
Treatment: Create new pathways to treatment; acknowledge addiction as chronic medical condition
Department of Public Health
Department of Corrections
Group Insurance Commission
Recovery Support: Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all approach; create multiple entry points to treatment and recovery
*requires legislative action in Massachusetts
**requires federal action
18 Members of the Working Group: