Baker, House lawmakers to tackle opioid abuse in coming weeks

Heroin and painkillers were linked to more than 1,200 deaths in MA last year

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The most powerful leaders on Beacon Hill agree that combating the state’s deadly prescription drug crisis is their main goal this legislative session.

Heroin and prescription drugs were linked to more than 1,200 deaths in Massachusetts last year. Now, top state leaders have made it their top priority to prevent and treat drug addiction.

“I don’t know if there’s any particular bill that we’re probably all more in sync in, in order to get something done than that particular bill,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop).

On Wednesday, House lawmakers will vote on whether to make trafficking Fentanyl a crime punishable by twenty years in prison. Fentanyl is the most powerful opioid on the market. Many drug traffickers mix Fentanyl with heroin to create a “super drug.”

Governor Charlie Baker told reporters Monday that he plans to file legislation to fight drug addiction within the next couple of weeks. He said one of the most controversial elements will be directing addicts away from jail and into treatment instead.

“We think it’s important that we find a way to get them treatment and not jail time,” said Baker.

Winter is just months away. Baker wants to focus on strengthening Boston’s public transportation system, while Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) argues other regions need more attention. He said, “We need rail in different parts of the Commonwealth, not just in the metropolitan Boston area. It’s not good enough to stop in Fitchburg; it’s got to get all the way to the New York border eventually.”

Governor Baker said he expects to have a comprehensive opioid bill on his desk by early next year.

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