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Massachusetts Governor's $20 Million Opiate Addiction Epidemic Plan

After declaring a statewide opiate epidemic in March, Massachusett's Governor appointed a task force to come up with both immediate and long term actions to combat the heroin and prescription opiate problem. Walpole’s Deputy Police Chief, John Carmichael is playing a key part of the committee.

Calling for an overhaul of how we view drug addiction as well as a full-scale effort to stop and prevent it, Carmichael said the task force is a step in the right direction. The chair of the law enforcement subgroup, Carmichael said the state must take an all hands on deck approach to curbing opioid addiction by any means necessary.

Opioid painkillers and heroin cause the most overdose deaths out of any drug all of the United States. They are widely abused and millions of Americans are addicted to them. What may start out innocently can quickly become a deadly addiction. The pills have also fallen into the hands of those that they were never prescribed to. If these pills are taken when no pain is present, they provide a blanket of euphoria. This feeling can easily make a person want to experience the same feeling again. As the lifestyle consumes the person, they become addicted and will do almost anything to get more pills.  As tolerance grows, more pills are needed to get the same high. Eventually most users run out of money and switch to heroin which is the cheaper of the two and packs the same if not more powerful punch.

Due to the over-prescribing of narcotic painkillers by healthcare physicians and the growing black market sales of these drugs, state governments have stepped in to create different ways to combat the issue. A term that has become very popular in the addiction community is known as “doctor shopping.” Patients or drug dealers will go to multiple medical doctors looking to receive opioid painkiller prescriptions. They go to as many doctors as they can and get the prescriptions filled for either themselves or for sale on the black market. One prescription can sell on the street for close to $5000. The dangers of getting caught is curbed by the insane profits that dealers make. The black market for opiates has become a billion dollar industry.

Taking a step toward rehabilitating the state, Governor Deval Patrick implemented a $20 million plan focusing on prevention, treatment and recovery per the recommendation of the task force.

The committee was a spin-off of the Executive Committee of the Inter-agency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. This is the group that Carmichael acts as the liaison to the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. The group is made up of law enforcement officials, health care professionals, health insurance representatives, Department of Children and Families representatives, and families of drug addicts. Carmichael said the task force was a made up of a group of individuals who can witness first hand the drug problem the state is facing.

The biggest and most immediate action approved by the Governor are improved treatment facilities with more room available. The Department of Public Health will provide more community and residential treatment facilities targeted toward adolescents, young adults and families with children.  The program has real time inventory of how many beds are available at each specific treatment center to provide the care individuals need.

"Families are struggling trying to call or go online and find a facility with no beds. They continuously call, that’s not good enough," Carmichael said. "People, as we know, are overdosing on this stuff, they’re dying from this stuff. They need to know that once a person makes a decision to get help they can do it in a timely fashion."

Hopefully more states will follow in Massachusetts path to helping their citizens get clean and live a drug free life.


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