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March 21, 2014

Judge juggles legal rulings, dope-sickness

BOSTON — A young woman died last week in Plymouth District Court from an overdose and a juror there was saved this week, according to Sen. Therese Murray, who next week will welcome her colleagues to her district to help address the state’s opiate addiction crisis.

Over the past 24 hours, Murray and District Court Judge Rosemary Minehan, who oversees drug court sessions in Plymouth, have raised the alert level on the issues, with Minehan telling attendees at a Statehouse briefing about what it’s like to preside during sessions where litigants sometimes require medical attention and Murray again asserting that the crisis had hit hard south of Boston and on Cape Cod.

“The Cape is experiencing also an inordinate amount of overdoses,” Murray said during an interview on WATD-FM yesterday. “It goes right across the age range. But particularly for our young people it’s just an epidemic. They get hooked. We had two last week. We had one that survived and one that didn’t survive right here in Plymouth last week.”

District court judges can involuntarily commit dangerous drug and alcohol addicts for treatment, and the court with the most such commitments is Quincy, followed by Brockton, and then Plymouth, according to Minehan.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 916 people died as a direct result of drug use in 2009, more than motor vehicle accidents and firearms combined. The 13.9 per 100,000 rate of drug-induced deaths in Massachusetts is also well above the national per capita rate of 12.8.

Murray said a juror was saved in the courtroom in recent days because a woman whose child has a drug addiction was carrying Narcan in her pocketbook.

“He’s completely out of it, no heartbeat. A woman in the back of the jury room says, ‘I belong to Learn to Cope. I have a Narcan.’ She opens her pocketbook and out pops her mascara, and she has a Narcan,” Minehan told lawmakers and staff at a briefing Wednesday. “Dude, he wakes up looks at the court officer and says, ‘Am I going to get into trouble for not being a juror today?’ That’s our life in the courthouse.”

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