Sen. Markey addresses heroin addiction in Western MA - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Sen. Markey addresses heroin addiction in Western MA

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In the last four months, state officials told CBS 3 that there have been 19 overdose deaths in Hampshire and Franklin counties alone.

Right now, they said that number will only continue to rise.

"Heroin and prescription drug addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives," said Sen. Ed Markey, who addressed a crowd of Western Massachusetts residents on Friday at the Holyoke Health Center.

Markey said it is time for government officials to look at the treatment side of heroin addiction.

"We are not going to be able to imprison our way out of this problem," said Markey. "We are going to have to have a smart program that gets right at the core of people being introduced at schools and on the streets of Western Massachusetts to this heroin epidemic."

Markey said an average of 100 Americans die each day from overdose and it is now the leading cause of injury death in Massachusetts.

He said treating that drug issue is vital to helping other areas of law enforcement.

"We have to get at this issue and do it soon, because it's already doubled the number of deaths in Massachusetts and it will double again," Markey stated.

Dr. Amanda Wilson, a board certified addiction doctor, agrees with that sentiment. She operates 10 "Clean Slate" addiction treatment centers across Massachusetts.

After opening in 2009, Wilson's centers are now treating 3,500 patients.

"It's been growing very steadily and never dropped off," said Wilson. "Unfortunately, it's how fast I can take patients in, that is the only rate-limiting factor. There's probably 100,000 more patients in Massachusetts that don't have access to care right now."

Of the patients her centers work with, Wilson said 80 percent get through the first year of treatment and nearly two-thirds make it through year two.

"They're really steadily getting better," Wilson stated. "We're able to wean them off of the medications, integrate and work collaboratively with our behavioral health partners, so they get the counseling that they need and really have long-term success."

Part of Markey's plan is to make Narcan, the drug that stops an overdose, easily available to law enforcement and families with drug addicts.

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