To the editor:
I want to commend Statehouse reporter Christian Wade and the Newburyport Daily News for the Oct. 26 article and the Oct. 30 editorial highlighting the findings of the State Medication Assisted Treatment Commission. The commission found that there are significant barriers which prevent most people seeking opioid abuse treatment to access medically assisted programs for substance abuse. The National Institute of Drug Abuse and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services are among some of the well known organizations that have found that medication assisted treatment programs are effective, but access to these programs is limited. In addition to the barriers to effective treatment, Mr. Wade’s article also referenced the lack of treatment programs in Northeastern Massachusetts. This is especially problematic because, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, from 2010-2018, Essex County had one of the highest overdose rates in the state.
The commission made some important recommendations which call for easing federal restrictions on methadone, increasing the numbers and hours for treatment centers, and increasing access to medically approved treatment drugs. If implemented, the commission’s recommendations would be an important first step in treating opioid substance abuse as a medical, rather than a criminal issue.
As a bereaved mom who lost her son to a overdose four years ago, I am well aware of the stigma that is part of this scourge. It has been difficult to overcome my own reticence to speak publicly about my loss, but I believe that advocating for effective solutions to this problem is a fitting way of honoring my son’s memory. I encourage anyone who is concerned about this issue to contact our local representatives and ask them what they will do to help implement these recommendations. I will be making my phone calls this week.