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Editorial: Taking heroin’s threat seriously

Less than a year ago, The Recorder published a series of local stories about the influx of heroin to the area. One of the last stories in that series dealt with what local law enforcement was doing to combat this new wave of drug abuse and listed its symptoms as well as the help available for users looking to make a break from their potentially deadly habit.

If Franklin County residents were looking for better news since those stories appeared, we’re sorry to say that the situation appears to have gotten worse. As reported last week, there seems to be an alarming increase in the number of overdoses from heroin or other opiates and we’re not even three weeks into the new year.

“In the past 30 days, the state police detective unit and local police have investigated seven suspected opioid overdose deaths in Hampshire and Franklin counties,” Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan told reporter Chris Curtis. Confirmation that those deaths were in fact overdoses was waiting on autopsy and toxicology findings. But, Sullivan went on to say that “these deaths highlight the desperate need for increased detoxification, treatment and recovery programs in western Massachusetts.”

We’re sure that Sullivan is doing all that he can to get the attention of those higher up in state law enforcement about this problem. But it plainly isn’t just an issue for the police. Addiction to heroin or pain pills is a public medical issue, one that calls for involvement from the public and private fields of health.

It’s also a problem that crosses state bo rders. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin highlighted the problem during his State of the State address. Other neighboring states are seeing a rise in overdoses as well as law enforcement and health officials in the Northeast say it has become an epidemic. We want to think that they are getting the attention of state legislatures so that both law enforcement and health programs will see additional financial aid should it be required to meet this challenge.

And now, Frankin County Sheriff Chris Donelan has written a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick asking for more state help in all areas, from policing to public health.

If there was some thought before that this heroin problem would go away on its own, that was foolish thinking.

We all must find ways to react to this new and serious threat.

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