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Govs. to meet about drug abuse.

Byline: Bob Salsberg

BOSTON -- The six New England governors will convene next week to map out a regional response to the growing problem around opioid drug abuse, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Tuesday.

The June 17 meeting at Brandeis University in Waltham will include discussion of how law enforcement can work together to stem the flow of illegal drugs across state lines, along with coordinated approaches to treatment in the region and development of a unified public information campaign.

The announcement came as an opioid abuse task force set up by Patrick released its final report with a series of recommendations, such as an expansion of community-based treatment and recovery programs, including those tailored to teenagers and young adults.

Patrick said a regional solution was important in part to remove geographical roadblocks to addiction treatment, noting that it might be easier for some people who live near state lines to seek treatment across borders.

''So how do we create a system that makes it more fluid to move across state lines if that is what is most convenient to get the service that is best for you?'' Patrick asked.

The governor declared a public health emergency in March in response to a sharp rise in overdoses and deaths from heroin and other opiates. Other states in the region have been experiencing similar crises.

Heroin deaths jumped to 21 in 2013 in Vermont, up from single digits over the previous decade. Treatment for heroin or painkiller abuse rose from 399 people in 2000 to 3,479 in 2012, a per capita rate now second in the nation. Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted much of his most recent State of the State address to the heroin problem.

In New Hampshire, 68 people died of heroin-related overdoses in 2013, compared with 38 the previous year and 16 in 2008.
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Author:Salsberg, Bob
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 11, 2014
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