Baker-Polito Administration Discusses Opioid Epidemic with Community Leaders

QUINCY — Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito recently joined Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Attorney General Maura Healey, and leaders from the recovery community for a roundtable discussion on the Baker-Polito administration’s collaborative progress in confronting the opioid epidemic over the past eight years.

The roundtable discussion was held at A New Way Peer Recovery Center in Quincy and included reflections from individuals and family members impacted by the opioid epidemic, as well as substance-misuse providers and organizations. Roundtable participants included members of Baker’s 2015 Opioid Working Group.

Since 2015, the administration has worked with the Legislature to support a fivefold increase in spending across the state budget to address substance misuse, with the Commonwealth investing nearly $600 million in these initiatives in the FY 2023 budget signed by Baker. The administration also worked with the Legislature to pass two landmark laws to address the opioid epidemic. The first law, passed in 2016, instituted a first-in-the-nation seven-day limit on first-time opioid prescriptions and instituted new requirements around prescription monitoring and substance-misuse screenings. The second law, passed in 2018, improved access to treatment from settings such as emergency departments and the criminal justice system, and strengthened education and prevention efforts.

“The opioid epidemic has impacted thousands of families and communities across Massachusetts, and we have partnered with many organizations, leaders, and families over the past eight years to make the Commonwealth a national leader in responding to this challenge,” Baker said. “I am proud that our administration and the Legislature have dramatically boosted funding that has increased access to treatment and recovery and enacted major laws that have become a model for other states and the nation. Most importantly, we have worked together to change the conversation and reduce stigma, which will help more people seek help and get the resources they need.”

Polito added that “our administration has made tackling the opioid epidemic a priority since day one, and we have been proud to work with so many partners to expand access to treatment and support recovery and prevention efforts. Over the past eight years, Massachusetts has led the way in expanding substance-misuse initiatives and getting people access to the help that they need.”

The administration has worked with a wide range of partners, including treatment and recovery providers, advocacy organizations, individuals, families, the courts, law enforcement, educational institutions, and many others, to confront the opioid epidemic. After peaking in 2016, opioid-related overdose deaths fell for the next several years, with the November 2019 report showing 99 fewer deaths than the same period from a year earlier. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a nationwide increase in overdose deaths, but Massachusetts’ numbers have continued to trend lower than nationwide figures, and the most recent report from the Department of Public Health (DPH) indicated that initial 2022 data showed overdose deaths decreasing again.

“Over the past eight years, we have made enormous strides in raising awareness and improving access to quality, equitable substance-use disorder and behavioral-health treatment across the Commonwealth,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said. “We have invested strategically in evidence-based resources and promising practices including peer recovery, clinical treatment, harm reduction, outreach programs, and low-threshold housing, recognizing that every individual’s path to recovery is unique.”