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Gov. Baker Unveils Data And First Steps In Opioid Fight

Jim Levulis

Like the administration before him, Governor Charlie Baker is calling opioid abuse in Massachusetts a public health emergency. On Thursday, the Republican unveiled initial steps his administration plans to take in fighting heroin and prescription drug abuse and addiction.At the Hope House treatment center in Boston, Baker announced the first-ever public release of state-collected data on the number of painkiller prescriptions written and overdose deaths in each county. It finds Plymouth, Bristol and Barnstable counties have the highest rates of persons with “activity of concern” such as receiving prescriptions from different doctors or pharmacies. The governor made opioid abuse a point of emphasis during January’s inaugural address.

“As governor I intend to tackle this problem head-on,” said Baker to a chorus of applause by state lawmakers.

A 16-member task force has been created to develop a strategy for dealing with addiction, treatment and recovery. It expects to hold four public hearings and submit recommendations in May.

Democratic U.S. Senator Ed Markey released the following statement after Gov. Baker made his announcements.

“What we thought was a rising tide of opiate overdoses is truly a tsunami of heroin and prescription drug addiction that we must stop before it drowns any more Massachusetts families and communities,” Markey said. “The devastating toll this opiate epidemic is taking can be seen in emergency rooms, jail cells and funeral homes across the state and country. We must act now to respond to this opiates emergency and halt its deadliest effects. I commend Governor Baker for the important action he is taking to ensure we have the best data to understand this crisis and improve state prescription drug monitoring programs. These are critical steps in an effort to develop a truly comprehensive strategy to combat the heroin and prescription drug crisis. I plan to reintroduce legislation in the coming weeks to protect family members, friends and other bystanders who administer lifesaving drugs like naloxone that can prevent opiate overdoses. It is our moral responsibility to respond immediately to this epidemic of overdoses, and I will continue to fight for the resources necessary to interrupt the cycle of addiction and help heal our neighborhoods.”

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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