BOSTON (SHNS) – While boasting of “nation-leading policy and reforms” in Massachusetts related to the opioid epidemic, incoming and outgoing state executives agreed Tuesday that there is more work to be done.
State government has worked to invest in recovery programs, de-stigmatize opioid-use disorder, bolster law enforcement’s ability to find and get fentanyl off the streets, and hold opioid manufacturers accountable for irresponsible marketing and production, Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Attorney General Maura Healey said at a roundtable discussion at A New Way Peer Recovery Center in Quincy Tuesday morning.
Still, opioid overdoses have increased dramatically since 2000, and remain at elevated levels. A 2018 report from the Department of Public Health data provides a snapshot of the significant growth of the opioid crisis since 2000, when 379 Massachusetts residents died of opioid-related overdoses. The 2,290 confirmed and suspected overdose deaths logged last year represent a 504 percent increase since 2000. Just between 2020 and 2021 the rate of opioid deaths in Massachusetts climbed 9 percent.
Baker said Tuesday that the pandemic “was an incredible blow to the progress and the momentum that we had developed here in Massachusetts before the pandemic.” “But I will say this, while everybody’s numbers look worse than they did before the pandemic, ours look dramatically better than they look in many other parts of the country,” Baker said. “I give many of the people in this room and many of your colleagues around the Commonwealth enormous credit for finding ways to hold on to and stay with so many of the people you served and supported during that very difficult time.”
Baker is leaving office in early January and his two consecutive terms coincided with two terms as attorney general for Healey, who was elected earlier this month to succeed Baker.