In the past few months she has met with police chiefs, district attorneys, and mayors. “It is starting to hit every single community,” Bartlett said, adding to heightened awareness around the problem.
The drug-related death toll has ticked up unabated across the state. In Taunton, six deaths connected to opiate overdoses occurred since Jan. 1; Woburn has had eight; and on Cape Cod there have been nearly 20 deaths.
The spike in heroin and opioid overdose death has triggered increased attention on substance abuse and treatment on Beacon Hill and on the campaign trail. Joe Avellone, a Democrat running for governor, has called for the creation of a state Office of Recovery, for instance, and other candidates have tried to appeal to voters by outlining their plans to tackle the problem.
Thanking the governor for his declaration, Attorney General candidate Warren Tolman on Thursday highlighted his own plan, released last week, to “enforce behavioral health offerings, take illicit painkillers off our streets, improve education on painkillers, stand up to Big Pharma, and be a voice for progress on combating opiate abuse.”
Making the announcement, Patrick was flanked by Carey, Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral, District Court Judge Rosemary Minihan, and Sen. John Keenan, a Quincy Democrat who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Public Health.
“These are critical steps that not only should be taken, but must be taken. The suffering has gone on too long,” Keenan said during the press conference.
Keenan said the Legislature is also working to combat the problem.
In January the Senate formed a special committee to study drug addiction and treatment options in Massachusetts with a focus on the civil commitment process to address what Senate President Therese Murray described epidemic of opiate addiction in Massachusetts.
Murray testified before that panel on Tuesday in her hometown of Plymouth. Since 1999 the state has seen a 47 percent increase in overdose deaths, according to Murray.