MMA creates Municipal Opiate Addiction and Overdose Prevention Task Force

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The MMA Board of Directors today unanimously approved the creation of a Municipal Opiate Addiction and Overdose Prevention Task Force to assist local officials as they take action in their communities.
The task force will focus its efforts in several key areas, including:
• Identifying best practices, information sharing, and education opportunities for local officials
• Ensuring the effective coordination of resources between federal, state and local agencies
• Determining additional resources and programs that are needed to address the issue
• Promoting a multi-disciplinary approach to the public health crisis
Opiate addiction and overdoses are costing hundreds of lives each year in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts State Police, at least 185 people have died from suspected heroin overdoses since November 2013, though the figure does not include data from the state’s three largest cities. The Department of Public Health reports that the rate of unintentional opioid-related overdose deaths has reached levels previously unseen in Massachusetts.
By creating the task force, the MMA is recognizing that local government leaders have a vital role in addressing this crisis in their cities and towns.
The task force will meet at least on a quarterly basis, and will be guided by a Steering Committee and membership appointed by MMA President Kevin Dumas, the mayor of Attleboro. The MMA will invite a number of organizations and experts to participate on a technical advisory group to facilitate input and participation from a wide range of policy practitioners.
The task force co-chairs are Dumas and Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn.
Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett addressed local officials on the opiate crisis today at the State House meeting of the Local Government Advisory Commission. Bartlett outlined actions the state has taken since Gov. Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency on March 27, as well as the administration’s efforts over the past seven years.
Bartlett said the administration wants to work as a partner with local officials to help them address this issue across Massachusetts.
Local officials applauded the state’s recent efforts to make drugs such as Narcan that quickly counteract overdoses more widely available to local police and firefighters.
In his emergency declaration, the governor pledged to spend $20 million more to increase treatment and recovery services for the public, state prisons and county jails.
He also directed the DPH to issue a public health advisory providing guidance on how to recognize opiate abuse and addiction and what steps family and friends can take. And he asked the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention to develop a comprehensive plan to address the problem.