Local leaders come together to fight opioid epidemic

There were several organizations from all over Western Massachusetts who came to this event.

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Local leaders continued their fight against the opioid epidemic Wednesday with an addiction and recovery discussion at Westfield State University.

Baystate Medical Center partnered with the university to hold this event.

“Substance abuse is the number one public health crisis today, and our event is really being able to open the many paths to recovery. We have several disciplines represented, there’s police officers, medical doctors, physician’s assistants, and they’re speaking to the ways they interact with people who have substance abuse issues and help them open the door to recovery,” said Nora Patykula, the BSW Program Director at Westfield State University.

Opioid abuse and addiction is increasing across the entire country. The 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health estimated 20.8 million people in the US live with a substance abuse disorder.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the number of annual opioid-related deaths in the Commonwealth has quadrupled from 355 in 2000 to more than 1,400 in 2016.

There were several organizations from all over western Massachusetts who came to this event. They’re the ones who work with people who suffer from opioid addiction on a daily basis.

“In Massachusetts, we have some of the highest rates of opioid addiction, and a lot of that is in the veteran community. We want the community to know, we have services, and you don’t need to be sober to get into housing. Especially if you’re homeless, we can put you in housing and go from there,” said Katherine Person of Veterans Inc.

The event ended with demonstration on how to use naloxone, the overdose reversal drug commonly referred-to by the brand name Narcan.