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Addiction in Franklin County

Money in works for Opioid Task Force

Turners Falls firefighter Mike Currie demonstrates how a Narcan dosage is assembled in a department ambulance on Tuesday. Currie has been to several overdose calls where responders administered Narcan and said it was amazing how quickly the drug brings near comatose people back to conciousness.
Recorder/Micky Bedell

Turners Falls firefighter Mike Currie demonstrates how a Narcan dosage is assembled in a department ambulance on Tuesday. Currie has been to several overdose calls where responders administered Narcan and said it was amazing how quickly the drug brings near comatose people back to conciousness. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

There’s money in the pipeline to give the regional Opioid Education and Awareness Task Force some staying power. The state House of Representatives added $100,000 into the state budget Wednesday night for the volunteer initiative begun last summer in the face of a steadily worsening heroin and prescription painkiller problem claiming lives in Franklin County, as elsewhere.

Rep. Paul Mark sponsored the amendment to fund the task force for the coming fiscal year, with the $100,000 to be funneled through the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office if the spending meets with approval from the state Senate and the governor.

“It’s an important cause because it’s affecting our whole community, it’s affecting people we know, it’s affecting every class of people, all income levels; it’s a crisis and the governor’s starting to recognize this, the community has already been recognizing this for a long time, and the work we have seen from the task force in just a few short months has really spurred a call for more action all over the state,” Mark said.

Mark said fellow legislator, Rep. Denise Andrews of Orange, co-sponsored the amendment with support from Rep. Stephen Kulik.

Born in Franklin County with a membership encompassing Hampshire County and Athol, the task force is spearheaded by the Franklin County sheriff, Franklin register of probate and the Northwestern district attorney, and has a broad membership, including police, doctors and therapists from Franklin County, Hampshire County and Athol.

The Task Force hired a coordinator this spring to organize the business of the group, close to 70-strong at its last meeting, and the subcommittees formed to tackle different areas of the solution.

Full-time coordinator Marisa Hebble said a big chunk of the money will go to her salary and benefits as she works to keep the effort on point and support the new and nascent efforts underway. The rest of the money will go to educational and outreach activities still in the planning.

The health care subcommittee has begun circulating a pledge to prescribers, aimed at bolstering safe prescription standards. Another subcommittee is working on getting together a quick-start guide to area recovery and treatment options, and in the process identifying the gaps where the treatment system has not kept pace with the opioid epidemic, she said.

“One of my first priorities is gathering a whole bunch of information from every corner of the community that I can, and then getting together with this executive council of the task force that we’re just putting together now, and getting a strategic plan ready so we have a blueprint and everything is working together to really reduce the epidemic,” Hebble said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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