HCN News & Notes

Public Forum on Reducing Opioid-overdose Deaths Set for Nov. 30

SPRINGFIELD — Every day, more than 140 Americans die from opioid overdose. In Massachusetts alone, there were 1,990 confirmed opioid-related deaths last year. To address this national and regional crisis, Baystate Medical Center will be the site of a free forum titled “Reducing Opioid Overdose Deaths — What Works?” on Thursday, Nov. 30 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Open to the public, the community and academic forum will bring together national experts, and regional and community leaders to discuss evidence-based ways to reduce deaths from opioid overdose.

“In this country, in terms of opioid addiction and death, we are seeing the equivalent of an airline crash every three days. More Americans died last year from opioids than in the entire Vietnam War,” said Dr. Peter Friedmann, chief research officer, Baystate Health and president-elect of the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine. “New England has the dubious distinction of having five of the 15 states with the highest death rates nationally.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recognizes the tremendous social and economic burden of the opioid epidemic, noting the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Among the speakers at the free forum will be Friedmann; Dr. Robert Roose, vice president, Mercy Behavioral Health Care; Dr. Alexander Walley, medical director, Opioid Overdose Prevention Pilot Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Liz Whynott, director, HIV Health and Prevention, Tapestry Health; Brandon Marshall, associate professor of Epidemiology, Brown University School of Public Health; and Jess Tilley, director, New England Users Union. There will be an opportunity for discussion and questions following the presentation of speakers.

“People are dying in the prime of life, and there are things that we could be doing and doing better,” said Friedmann said. “This special forum will give us an opportunity to look at the science in a clear-headed way as we form a response to this public-health emergency.”

The event is co-sponsored by UMass Medical School – Baystate, the Springfield Department of Health, Tapestry Health, SIFMA Now Western Chapter, the New England Users Union, and the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine.

No registration is needed for the forum, which will be held in Baystate Medical Center’s Chestnut Building, 1 A/B Conference Room. For more information, call (413) 794-7717 or e-mail susan.decelle@baystatehealth.org.