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Panel Finalizes Recommendations to Ease Drug Abuse

drugsBOSTON (AP) — A state panel charged with finding ways to address Massachusetts’ drug abuse epidemic is set to finalize its recommendations for Gov. Deval Patrick this week.

The 36-member Opiate Task Force is charged with recommending how to spend $20 million the governor has designated to improve addiction treatment and recovery services statewide.

Patrick issued an executive order in March declaring drug abuse a public health emergency. He also attempted to ban Zohydro, a powerful hydrocodone-based painkiller, and expanded the availability of naloxone, a drug used to counter the effects of opioid overdose.

The panel includes mayors, state officials and health care providers. It meets Wednesday.

State officials say the annual number of unintentional opiate overdoses in Massachusetts nearly doubled from 2000 to 2012.

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