District Attorney Ryan convenes area's first opioid task force

MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, MA

By Brittney McNamara

May 11. 2016 6:11PM

District Attorney Ryan convenes area's first opioid task force

FRAMINGHAM – Since Jan. 1, Middlesex County alone has seen 58 fatal heroin overdoses, a sign that District Attorney Marian Ryan said shows the state-wide opioid crisis is only speeding up. To help fight against the epidemic, Ryan convened the first Central/South Middlesex Opioid Task Force in hopes of a more regional approach to quell opioid use in the area.

On Wednesday, Ryan’s task force met for the first time to outline the group’s mission. The 19-town task force is modeled after the regional coalition Ryan set up in the Merrimack Valley, designed to bring officials in different expertise areas together to form a collaborative approach to opioid treatment, recovery, prevention, and enforcement.

The Wednesday meeting at Framingham’s McAuliffe Branch Library kicked off the task force’s mission by defining a common language for all the experts in the room to use around the opioid crisis, and outlining what’s already being done in the area to combat drug use.

Brian O’Connor, the former OB/GYN who founded Middlesex Recovery, spoke to the standing-room-only crowd of law enforcement officials, public health experts and community leaders about how addiction works, and what treatment means. To address addiction in the long-term, O’Connor said we need to look beyond the physical parts of care.

“There is no other disease that has waiting lists for care,” O’Connor said. “Medically Assisted Treatment is part of treatment, it isn’t the whole treatment. Counseling is extremely important, because counseling is what is going to help you in the long-term.”

Medically Assisted Treatment is addiction treatment using drugs such as suboxone and vivitrol

Part of care, David Seltz of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission noted, is research. The state agency has been collecting data that Seltz said will help set policy and give valuable information about how to help addicts. What research has noted, Seltz said, is the opioid crisis reaches beyond the addicts. The system currently in place, he said, isn't designed to give the kind of care both addicts and their families require.

“We have an incredible health care system in Massachusetts, but it is not meant to deal with this crisis,” Seltz said. “We need to start thinking about that future…of where our health care system will be to treat addicts and prevent new addicts from coming online.”

Care is just one part of the multi-pronged approach Ryan described. Education, prevention, enforcement, legislation, intervention and treatment are all essential, she said.

Ryan said the task force is designed to keep the focus on the long-term, because that’s what the opioid crisis is.

“Even if today we could shut off the supply of opiates, we have a generation’s worth of problems," Ryan said.

The task force will meet monthly alternating between Framingham and Emerson Hospital in Concord.

Brittney McNamara can be reached at 508-490-7463 or by email at bmcnamara@wickedlocal.com.
Follow her on Twitter at @bmcnamara_MW.

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20160511/NEWS/160518660 

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