What’s next in battling the heroin & opioid epidemic?

The Opioid Task Force was formed a year ago

An educational pamphlet and samples of naloxone, a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It started with 12 members on the task force and it quickly expanded as more community members expressed their concern. Now over 100 people attend meetings.

The Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region met Tuesday night at Greenfield Community College to discuss what’s next in battling the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic.

“So far, what we’re trying to pull together in the community is definitely helping,” said Carolyn Murray of Montague.

Franklin County Register of Probate and Task Force co-chair John Merrigan says the task force is focusing more on the mental health aspect and what drives people to opioid abuse in the first place.

“I think the court is evolving we’re trying to understand and get our head around this issue and what drives people to be so caught up in the heroin addiction,” said Merrigan. “We’re not looking to incarcerate people we’re looking to help people.”

About 4 out of 5 heroin users have used prescription drugs in the past for non-medical issues, and that’s why the task force is working with local healthcare providers to try to provide opiates in a safer manner and to use alternatives to try to decrease the risk of addiction.

According to Marisa Hebble, the Opioid Task Force Coordinator, “We’re doing our best to try to break the stigma around addiction. Stigma is really one of the barriers to people getting into treatment, to getting people to talk about it and get help.”

The Department of Public Health says there will be a detox service in Franklin County by the end of year. 25 teachers from throughout Franklin County will be trained Monday in a new program on substance abuse prevention to bring back to their school.

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