Report makes recommendations on Mass. drug crisis

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SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – A newly released report makes recommendations on how to handle the prevention and treatment of a pervasive opioid epidemic in Massachusetts.

Western Massachusetts is battling a drug crisis. Opioids. It’s something South Hadley’s Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition Coordinator has heard about since 1992.

Karen Walsh Pio from the South Hadley Drug & Alcohol Prevention Coalition told 22News, “I believe it happened through prescription pain medications that young people get for very legitimate reasons. Wisdom teeth get pulled, sports injuries. Young people don’t necessarily realize the dangers of those medications.”

Walsh Pio says opioid education should begin in elementary school. The new report by the Massachusetts Health Council agrees. They also recommend more treatment options and detox beds and say opiate blocking drugs should be paid for by the state and made available to inmates.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook of Holyoke said, “The drug problem in the U.S. is a byproduct of a broader malaise with this country’s system where we don’t care for our people and where we don’t develop a system that’s conducive to human life instead of to the profits of the very wealthy.”

Now, communities are fighting back by installing prescription drug drop boxes like this one at the South Hadley Police station. The pills get picked up once a month and burned, keeping them out of the hands of teens.

Elizabeth Sloan of Chesterfield said, “Once you are addicted it can be a long process. Years, and some people never recover from it. Economically, it’s very damaging and it really needs to be stopped, I’m glad that the governor is getting behind it and putting resources to help.”

The report also recommends that the state fund grants to be used for community substance abuse prevention.

Last year, more than 1,000 died from and opioid overdose in Massachusetts.

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