Since 2004, more than 6,600 members of our community have died, and behind those deaths are thousands of hospital stays, emergency department visits, and unquantifiable human suffering.
---From the "Overview" of the Governor's Opioid Working Group Report. June 11, 2015
After months of hearings, discussions, gathering of critical data leading to prioritized strategies and recommendations, the Working Group charged to find solutions to the devastating disease of opioid addictions in Massachusetts has issued their report. The report is impressive in its clarity and comprehensive presentation of the issues. It does not break new ground, most of the content has been well covered in the press over the past few years. What it manages to do is present the definitive picture of our opioid crisis with an eye towards short and long term priorities. It even provides a re-aligned structure for treatment, one that makes far more sense than the current system grown out necessity rather than logic or research. It is a report for the Powerpoint generation with first-rate graphics presented in a logical, understandable fashion.
It's also notable for what it doesn't say. The system recommendations, both long and short-term, will take hundreds of millions to implement. Yes, we need more prevention in the public schools, yes we need better training and medication monitoring of the medical community, and of course we need more beds for Section 35 clients. Few would argue with the need for increased access points into the recovery system and the expansion of the case management system. Treatment professionals, clients and their families are more than familiar with these issues. The big question remains - how will this new system, a coordinated, well-resourced system that will save lives and "unquantifiable human suffering", be funded. We can't afford to keep plugging holes in the system without taking the comprehensive approach recommended by the Working Group. The Governor and Legislature will need make this report truly actionable with comprehensive funding and courageous leadership that supports change. Without it, this report will simply serve as an epitaph for future generations caught in a cycle of ruined lives and tragic deaths.
Posted on Tue, June 23, 2015
by Bill Garr