Greenfield, Montague, Athol and Orange to join in $89M national opioid study

  • Samples of pure drugs that could kill the average human — heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil, a synthetic opioid 100 times more powerful than fentanyl — at the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory in Concord.  WASHINGTON POST/SALWAN GEORGES

Staff Writer
Published: 4/22/2019 11:04:55 PM

An $89 million nationally funded research study led by Boston Medical Center will study 16 communities in the state, four of them in this region, as public and private partners continue to wrestle with the best approaches to reduce opioid-related deaths.

Greenfield, Montague, Athol and Orange will represent one-quarter of the 16 Massachusetts communities that will be studied, which may mean elevated services, such as increased access to medically assisted treatment for some of these communities.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health, will look to reduce opioid deaths by 40 percent.

The research will see how successful office-based addiction treatment can be delivered and the value of community education, increased access to medically assisted treatments, like methadone and Suboxone, and the role of hospitals and jails in detox.

In early May, leaders from across this state involved with this research study will meet to discuss details. This will likely include representatives from the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, Community Health Center of Franklin County, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the North Quabbin Community Coalition.

“Despite all of our intensive and orchestrated efforts to really do everything we can, for me this is an opportunity to examine every practice,” Opioid Task Force Coordinator Debra McLaughlin said.

In 2018, the region saw a record 20 deaths related to opioid use, which included: five deaths from Athol, six from Greenfield, four from Orange, two from Deerfield, two from Turners Falls and one from Ashfield, according to the Task Force, which gets its data from the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office and State Police. Part of the uptick is attributed to the rise of fentanyl, which is stronger than heroin, in the area.

“We are defying statewide trends where overdose death rates are going down,” Northwestern District Attorney and Opioid Task Force Co-Chair David Sullivan said in a statement from the task force. “Participating in this study will help us better understand why this is happening.”

The study will view the four communities in the region as rural for the purposes of the research.

“The North Quabbin Regional has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic,” Executive Director of the North Quabbin Community Coalition Heath Bialecki-Canning said in a statement from the task force. “We look forward to working with our partners across the state to implement strategies to save lives.”

The opportunity to participate in this study, which should increase services in the area, came following a summit held by Baystate Franklin Medical Center in September. With several partners at the table, both from Boston and locally, like Ed Sayer, the director of the Community Health Center of Franklin County, they joined the effort to participate in the grant.

“The opioid crisis in Massachusetts has been devastating, as it has been across the country,” Dr. Jeffrey Samet, chief of general internal medicine at Boston Medical Center and professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a statement from the task force.

Along with Massachusetts, New York, Kentucky and Ohio will be a part of the National Institutes of Health study.

“This research study is a major step forward,” Samet, who is leading the state’s study, said. “We will take what we’ve learned at Boston Medical Center and across Massachusetts over the past 20 years and work with our partners to bring those initiatives together to make a serious dent in overdose death rate. It means pulling out all the stops.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




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