‘The them are now us’

  • Senate President Stanley Rosenberg visited the RECOVER Project on Federal Street Wednesday for a roundtable discussion on addiction. RECORDER STAFF/TOM RELIHAN

Recorder Staff
Published: 10/26/2016 9:02:55 PM

GREENFIELD — Despite a coordinated push over the last few years to increase substance abuse support and recovery services in Franklin County, there are still some holes in the net.

State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg heard from members of the local recovery community and the regional Opioid Task Force Wednesday afternoon about exactly which ones they’d like him to focus on plugging up during the next legislative term at a roundtable discussion at The RECOVER Project.

First and foremost, attendees asked him to find a way to increase access to stable housing for recovering addicts — one of the most critical factors in whether someone who just was released from prison or completed a detox program will be able to maintain sobriety.

“We have no good places to send people,” said Dr. Ruth Potee, a local addiction specialist who oversees Greenfield’s new detox facility. “(Addiction) is a long-term disease and we have to think of it in that very broad way.”

“It’s about the long-run, to provide support for a year that can change people’s lives,” agreed Lorena Norwood, the project director of the Salasin Center on Main Street.

Rosenberg said he expects to see another wave of opioid-related legislation when the next term begins. At least four bills have been passed in recent sessions aimed at curbing diversion of prescription pain pills and expanding treatment options.

It will be a while, he noted, before the data will be in that would allow the success of those programs can be measured.

“There’s so much out there, and so much of it is hidden,” Rosenberg said of the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 1,500 lives statewide last year. “They’re not getting connected and not getting what is needed, but we expect to do more legislation and not be discouraged. It’s making a difference.”

He asked attendees to compile a list of issues that need to be addressed and their suggestions for how to do it.

Judge William Mazanec noted the adjustments the local judicial system and law enforcement agencies have had to make in light of the growing addiction crisis, and how they’ve come together to find a path toward addressing it.

“We’ve made dramatic adjustments from look at this as someone else’s problem to being our problem, our challenge,” he said. “We’re realizing that the ‘them’ are now us. We’re helping turn the page on addiction, and it really requires a collage.”

Rosenberg called some the work being done in Franklin County a model that’s being replicated across the nation.

Potee said more focus needs to be placed on long-term treatment options like sober living arrangements and support after detox.

“It’s very easy to say ‘We’ve thrown enough money at this, we’ve fixed the prescription pill problem,’ and pat ourselves on the back,” Potee said. “But the truth is, we are not ahead of this problem right now. The prescription pill problem was four years ago, but I have people who are shooting straight fentanyl right now. People are incredibly sick.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s considerably stronger than street heroin and was linked to more than 60 percent of fatal overdoses in 2015.

She said access to stable housing and medically-assisted treatment options like methadone or buprenorphine therapy is needed. “We need more spots, we just do.”

You can reach Tom Relihan at: 413-772-0261, ext. 264 or trelihan@recorder.com On Twitter, @RecorderTom


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