SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to fight the opioid epidemic in the City.
Opioids are ‘morphine-type’ medications. When used as directed by your doctor, they can treat moderate or severe pain. However, illegal street drugs like heroin are also considered opioids and can be deadly.
Last year, then Attorney General Maura Healey settled a lawsuit with four different opioid manufacturers. Massachusetts is set to receive up to $500 million from this but before the money gets distributed to individual communities in the state, legislation needs to be passed by lawmakers.
Instead of waiting on that legislation, Mayor Sarno worked with the city’s finance department to front the money that Springfield is earmarked to receive, totaling more than $421,000.
“We can’t wait and must continue to hit this ‘street’ epidemic head on, while also advocating for more treatment beds here in Springfield and Western Massachusetts. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an opioid, drug and mental health epidemic,” said Mayor Sarno.
The Springfield Police Department will receive $94,470 which will be used to buy medical bags, tourniquet kits, automated external defibrillators (AED) and Narcan pouches. The Police Department will be able to buy enough pouches of the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan, so that every officer has one of them at all times.
“Right now, the Narcan or naloxone is carried with the AEDs in a pouch. So the officers have to get out with the medical bag, the AED, and then they have the Narcan. Sometimes, it’s an overdose and it doesn’t come in that way. It can come out as a disturbance, it could come out as somebody injured in another way. They get there, and realize that if they had the Narcan right on them, they could possibly make another save,” said Springfield Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood.
Superintendent Clapprood added that last year, 115 lives were saved by officers using Narcan.
The Springfield Fire Department will also receive $117,000 to pay for two full-time TAC units with a vehicle at their White Street Fire Station. These specialized units will be called to opioid related incidents.
“I would like to thank Mayor Sarno for his continued support of the Springfield Fire Department. Funding these two units will allow the Springfield Fire Department to more quickly respond to medical incidents and overdoses in our two most heavily affected areas for opioid overdoses in the city. These units going into service is the first true service expansion of the Springfield Fire Department in over fifty years. These units will not only serve to help the public better but also help increase safety for our firefighters,” said Fire Commissioner BJ Calvi.
The Springfield Department of Health and Human Services will receive $210,000 for a mobile medical response vehicle, which will be used to assist in the city’s opioid related response efforts.
“The city of Springfield will purchase a Medical Mobile Unit for the Springfield Department of Health and Human Services to bring Opioid Response services to various neighborhoods in the city. The Mobile Unit will consist of a multidisciplinary team. The service team will consist of a number of community-based organizations whose mission is to decrease the prevalence of fatal and non-fatal overdoses. SDHHS has also been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to be a Community Naloxone Purchasing Program Affiliate Program. SDHHS is approved for a full subsidy when ordering naloxone and will be distributing Naloxone to our community-based partners. This is another step in our ongoing effort to develop a robust prevention, intervention and treatment response to the opioid crisis in the city of Springfield,” said HHS Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
A separate independent lawsuit filed back in 2018 by Mayor Sarno and the City of Springfield against pharmaceutical manufactures and distributors for their alleged role in the opioid crisis is still pending before Hampden Superior Court.