One of the main issues that compelled me to run for office is the lack of new proposals for winning the drug war. Truth is, we are losing this war. The numbers are staggering. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Department of Health, well over 1,200 people died of drug overdoses in 2014. 1 In fact, in Somerville alone, deaths from opioid overdose have QUADRUPLED from 2013 to 2014.2
Let those numbers sink in. Since 2005, more people have died due to opioid overdose, than motor vehicle accidents! Changes in how we deal with opioid addiction and abuse is long overdue. I applaud our state’s success at opening up drug rehabilitation to more people. The most recent bill signed into law by the governor of Massachusetts, as well as the work he has put into this effort, is laudable, however, I believe the state is not addressing an important piece to this problem. Understand that prevention efforts only go so far, and in-patient drug rehabilitation treatment is only the first step in a lengthy recovery process, that will require continued support after the addict is released. Unfortunately, the Governor and the Commonwealth’s efforts have mainly focused on securing a bed in a rehab facility, and restricting opioid prescriptions. In the most recent bill (H.4056), the legislation went a long way to help fight this public health epidemic and provide critical funding for prevention, treatment and education3, yet does not adequately address life after rehab.
What do those in recovery face post-rehab? The constant increase of the cost of living in the Boston area has made it difficult for people to support themselves under the best of circumstances, yet, for them, the tide is turning in their favor. However, if you have a criminal record due to your time as an addict, even after you’ve gotten clean, you are in a very tough spot. Companies do not want to hire you and you’re probably saddled with outstanding fines and/or court fees. Even if you could go back to school, bills still need to be paid and more debt is accumulated. Too often, this leads to a reliance on social services just to survive. Also, many folks fresh out of jail or drug treatment may not even have a safe home to return to. Dropping a recovering addict, fresh out of rehab, right back into the situation that fed their addiction in the first place, is a recipe for disaster…in this case, relapse.
Addiction recovery is rarely completed after one stint, and it can not be considered complete while the addict is supported in a controlled environment. Folks in recovery know this all to well, yet, the officials responsible for composing our drug laws seem to have missed that part. Addiction is too complex a combination of behavioral and physical disorders to treat behind locked doors or in a matter of days or weeks.
It’s time to focus on post-treatment support. We must find ways that state government can work with businesses to encourage them to hire workers directly from treatment. I propose that we look at possible tax incentives for companies who do just that. We must ensure that every addict leaving treatment has a decent paying job. Without one, the state will likely end up supporting these people. Post-treatment arrangements must become a part of treatment itself. Does the individual have a home or a solid paying job to return to? If not, we must understand that successful recovery is highly unlikely, if not impossible without those two things. Every dollar spent by the state on that individual’s rehabilitation is more or less a waste if he or she is turned out to the streets without a home and job.
Drug addiction is a mental disease, and we must continue to approach this issue as such. We must understand the burdens most addicts have leaving treatment, and how the inability to handle these burdens, leads to relapse, additional inpatient stays, reliance on social welfare, or worst of all, death.
This campaign is a part of my own personal recovery. Politics is my passion and it is what I have always wanted to do, so, I am pursuing it. I hope you will join our effort and cause.
I plan to talk about post treatment ideas a lot in this campaign, and welcome your ideas. How can we make it easier for folks coming out of treatment to independently maintain their financial obligations while pursuing their goals and dreams?
It is time to elect people, like myself, who are driven to ensure the state legislature gets serious about implementing post-treatment programs aimed at increasing employment and decreasing homelessness for those in recovery, and most importantly to cut the number of deaths to opioid overdose by half.
Please join me in this endeavor.
1. Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “Data Brief: Fatal Opioid-related Overdoses among Massachusetts Residents.” Data Brief: Fatal Opioid-related Overdoses among Massachusetts Residents (2015): 1-3. 1 July 2015. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
2. Jones, Erica. “Heroin Overdoses On The Rise in Somerville.” Somerville, MA Patch. Patch Media, 11 May 2015. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. <http://patch.com/massachusetts/somerville/heroin-overdoses-rise-somerville-0>.
3. Press Release, Governor Signs Landmark Opioid Legislation into Law. Governor of Massachusetts, 14 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.