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Sen. Markey, Congressman Neal and Holyoke Mayor Morse Discuss Growing Drug Problem in Western Mass.

heroin conferenceHOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) – Massachusetts officials are cracking down on the growing heroin and prescription drug abuse in Western Mass.

“This is a crisis that can be met head on and it can be met head on at a community level,” said Kathryn Powers, SAMHSA regional director.

Senator Edward Markey joined Congressman Richard Neal, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, and Holyoke Health Center CEO Jay Breines, at the Holyoke Health Center Friday, for a meeting on how to crack down on the drug abuse. They talked about the recent rising number of drug deaths in Western Mass, along with the number of heroin related arrests police officials throughout the Western part of the state have made in the last few days.

Senator Markey says the growing heroin problem can not be solved by just putting people behind bars,”We’re not going to to be able to imprison our way out of this problem,” says Markey.

Markey calls for a three-pronged attack against the heroin epidemic. More prevention programs, more treatment beds, and providing first responders with Narcan, the heroin reversal drug.

The heroin addiction problem is tearing families apart according to Marcy Julian, who works with Learn2Cope, a support group for families involved with heroin addiction,” It’s a much bigger problem than anybody realizes, I think you hard some of the statistics today, at least two people die every day in Massachusetts from an opiate overdose that includes heroin,” says Julian.

“Since November alone we’ve had 30 overdoses in Hampden County. That number is unacceptable,” said Mayor Alex Morse.

Plans on how to combat this growing issue included expanding the use of drug treatment programs in order to prevent overdose deaths and a call for more federal funding to expand detox treatment programs.

Senator Markey also led a discussion regarding the increase in availability and use for the drug Narcan, a lifesaving overdose reversal drug that first responders would carry on them. It helps reverse the effects of a fatal heroin or opiate overdose. Markey has proposed bill that would protect police officers, health counselors and other groups from liability of offering the drug to help combat a potential fatality, as long as they legally acquire the drug and are trained to use it.

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