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Addiction in Franklin County

Lawmakers OK $40K for opiate task force

An earmark for $40,000 to fight the area’s heroin and opiate problem has cleared both houses of the General Court, and will be included in the Legislature’s supplemental budget headed for the governor.

If he approves, the money would be used to hire an administrator for the regional ad-hoc Opioid Education and Awareness Task Force, formed to fight an addiction epidemic in Franklin and Hampshire counties, as well as the North Quabbin region.

The Senate voted Wednesday to support the earmark. It already had been approved by the House of Representatives.

The earmark would pay the administrator’s salary until the start of the 2015 fiscal year in July.

The task force was formed in October, by Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan, Franklin County Register of Probate and Family Court John Merrigan and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan. It includes several agencies, professionals, officials and individuals in the area it serves.

If signed by the governor, the $40,000 would provide a dedicated administrator to coordinate the task force’s efforts, apply for grants and provide other support.

“As a task force we’ve been talking about all kinds of ideas and recommendations and this would be the person in charge of bringing those things to life and implementing them,” Donelan said.

Sullivan has said that the administrator will enable the task force to collect better data as it digs into the area’s addiction problems. Better data, he said, will make for stronger applications for state, federal and other grant money.

State Rep. Stephen Kulik advocated for the Legislature to include the earmark in the supplemental budget. He said he hopes the Legislature will include funds for the task force as it puts together the budget for fiscal year 2015.

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