SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The opioid epidemic is a reality that Elaine Awand knows all too well.
Her son, Jarrod, died of an opioid overdose nearly one year ago.
She has since dedicated her life to preventing others from going down the same path, a mission that the synthetic opioid fentanyl, is making even more challenging. “The increase in fentanyl deaths is the ability for fentanyl to come into this country, and the fact that it’s cheaper and available,” she said.
Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin.
According to the state Department of Public Health, fentanyl was found in the toxicology reports of more than 92-percent of deadly overdoses in Massachusetts this year.
That report also found that in the first six months of this year, the opioid death rate dropped almost 11- percent statewide. However, it wasn’t the same pattern in parts of western Massachusetts.
There were 208 deadly overdoses in Hampden County in 2018, nearly doubling the number from 2017. There were 37 deadly overdoses in Hampshire County, and 22 in Franklin County.
Michael Brassard is the director of Michael’s House, a sober living community in Springfield and part of the Michael Dias Foundation. “It’s disappointing, for the fact that if I had twice as many beds here I would take in more people. There’s just not enough places for people to go.”
He told 22News, there’s a waiting list to get into most treatment centers in western Massachusetts.
He worries that without the available beds, the crisis will only get worse. “There needs to be a multi-faceted attack on what’s going on, a coordination of services.”
Fentanyl typically originates outside of the U.S., in Mexico and China.
According to the New York Times, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on three Chinese nationals Wednesday, who allegedly trafficked synthetic opioids into the U.S.
It’s part of the government’s efforts to curb the flow of fentanyl into the United States.