Hampshire County fighting an addiction battle

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Over the last decade, there has been a surge in heroin and opioid overdose deaths.

You’ve heard about it in the news before, but new numbers show its only getting worse. Nationally there has been an increase of 300,000 heroin users in the last decade. It’s an addiction crisis that Hampshire County is fighting.

“What we do know is that we have a rise in overdose deaths here in Hampshire County. We also know that over half of the people who access substance use disorder treatment here in Hampshire County access it for heroin and other opioids,” said Cherry Sullivan, the Program Coordinator for Hampshire HOPE.

Hampshire Hope is a coalition of different groups working to eliminate the gaps in addiction treatment and recovery. Their initiatives include education on the safe storage of medications and school assessments to identify at risk youth.

The Northampton Needle Exchange program has been operating since 1995. They see about 30 people a day. Many of the addicts are not ready for treatment.

“Our main goal is to keep people alive and to prevent disease transmission. Unfortunately, recovery isn’t a linear process. People relapse usually many times before they stop using drugs or alcohol,” said Tapestry Health Needle Exchange Director Liz Whynott.

They take the dirty needles, give new ones, distribute the life-saving drug NARCAN, and provide sterile drug making materials.

Northampton resident Nick Brady told 22News he’d like to see more programs to help addicts.

“The law needs to focus more on rehabilitation than criminalization,” said Brady. “It’s a huge issue in the this area. It always has been. I grew up in South Hadley and I know it was an issue there. I’ve got plenty of friends who have been down that rabbit hole.”

In a recent survey 3 in every 1,000 Americans admitted to using heroin in the past year.

Research has found that people who abuse prescription painkillers are 40-times more likely to abuse heroin.

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