Officials: Opiate abuse threat to every family

From The Herald News
By Jo C. Goode
Mar. 12, 2015

FALL RIVER — Opiate addiction, which has ravaged so many lives on SouthCoast and statewide, is “uniquely an American problem” with startling statistics, Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., said Wednesday during a roundtable discussion on drug abuse.

“We are less than 5 percent of the world population, yet we consume 99 percent of the hydrocodone,” Keating said. “We consume above 80 percent of the opioid drugs in the world.”

Yet, despite the toll opiates take, they fail to generate the national attention just two cases of Ebola spur, he said.

Keating and Attorney General Maura Healey were in Fall River at the SSTAR substance abuse treatment facility to meet with officials and residents as part of the statewide Commonwealth Conversation tour. The event, hosted by Sen. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, organizer of Commonwealth Conversations, brought some dozen senators to SouthCoast, including Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst.

“Demand for treatment in the Massachusetts exceeds supply,” said Vic DiGravio, president of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare. “We have far more demand for treatment than we do have the availability of treatment options.”

That fact, said DiGravio, has been underscored the past few years as requests from family members, seeking court-ordered commitments for drug treatment, have doubled.

“That should absolutely be a last resort, people should be able to access treatment when they when they’re ready to go into treatment,” DiGravio said.

While there are an array of funded treatments in the state, the demand outstrips those services.

Last year the legislature passed what DiGravio called “historic legislation” that when fully implemented will help to open access to addiction treatment by creating mandatory benefits in both commercial and Massachusetts health insurers.

That access is sorely needed.

“Call it what it is, it’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate,” Healey said, stressing that arresting those with substance abuse problems “is not going to get us there.” Rather, she said, a continuum of care is needed.

“We need treatment. We need to meet people where they are,” she said. If that isn’t done, Healey said everyone will have a family member or other loved one battling addiction.

Stanley Street Treatment and Resource CEO Nancy Paull talked about real life individuals who are walking through the doors of SSTAR.

Paull described a young man “bright and caring, but also profoundly addicted to opiates.”

His family came looking for help, Paull said, and a program at SSTAR provided a family intervention and treatment for him in their in-patient unit and funded through a state program.

“It was at our expense because the insurance company had denied care … Because he was addicted to opiates and it wasn’t medically necessary,” Paull said.

Bristol County District Attorney Tom Quinn said he is willing to engage in any program that would address the issue, as drug overdoses in the region are expected to rise.

“Drug courts have been started in Fall River and New Bedford, which I think is a step in the right direction to deal with the issue for individuals that are appropriate for that forum,” Quinn said.

Original source: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20150312/NEWS/150319786/101245/NEWS0301