State lawmakers want to expand drug treatment services

Nearly 2,000 opioid-related deaths last year

BOSTON (WWLP) – Nearly 2,000 people died from opioid overdoses last year. State lawmakers, however, are hoping to bring that number down this year by expanding drug treatment services.

Opioid-related deaths were more than four times higher in 2015 than in 2000, according to the Department of Public Health.

State lawmakers have filed several bills to expand treatment services for substance abusers.

“When you look at the amount of beds that are available, when you look at the need in western Massachusetts, we don’t have the level of services that they have down in the eastern part of the state and I think it’s something that we definitely need to improve upon,” State Rep. Michael Finn (D- Springfield) said.

One bill would provide substance abuse treatment training to medical providers, a program sheriffs departments said is much needed.

Sheriffs told 22News that prisons are often one of the first lines of detoxification for drug users.

“Sadly, that’s why so many people end up incarcerated because they can’t break that cycle of addiction out in the community,” Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutojian said. “You shouldn’t have to come to jail to get good programming.”

There are several types of substance abuse treatment programs, including medical detoxification and recovery homes, currently offered in western Massachusetts.

Public testimony to lawmakers uncovered that current programming is insufficient.

“As we save people, we need to be able to say on the spot, we’ll offer you care,” said Dr. Barbara Herbert, President of American Society of Addiction Medicine.

First responders use on-the-spot treatments like naloxone in overdose situations, but doctors told 22News there’s not enough long-term treatment to help people recover.

“We have patients who we cannot hook up to aftercare after they’ve been admitted to the hospital,” said Dr. Michael Bierer of Massachusetts General Hospital.

State lawmakers are currently reviewing the bill and it has yet to be approved.