HCN News & Notes

Sen. Lesser Holds Roundtable Discussion on Opioid Epidemic in Western Mass.

SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Eric Lesser hosted a roundtable discussion last week on the opioid epidemic in Western Mass. in partnership with American International College (AIC). 

While statewide the opioid death rate has gone down, Western Mass. has seen alarming increases in deaths, particularly in Springfield and Chicopee. As a result, Lesser convened a roundtable discussion with those working in the field to talk about causes and potential solutions.

Those in attendance represented a broad coalition of individuals and organizations involved directly with the crisis, including Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, representatives from Mercy Medical Center and Baystate Medical Center, as well as addiction professionals and those in recovery.

The discussion highlighted the regional disparities in the opioid crisis and the need for a renewed collaborative effort to combat the epidemic here in Western Mass. Overall, Hampden County has seen an 84% increase in deaths from 2017 to 2018, while Hampshire County has seen a 29% increase. Franklin County also has seen a staggering 144% increase during the same timeframe. 

“The statewide story of a crisis under control isn’t represented by what’s happening here in Western Massachusetts,” Lesser said. “We’ve seen alarming increases in opioid deaths in our region and thought it was important to bring everyone together to discuss what’s going on and how we can respond.”

At the event, Lesser announced $500,000 he secured in funding for the Municipal Bulk Purchasing Trust Fund in the state budget, which helps municipalities purchase the life-saving overdose-reversal drug known as Narcan. 

“It has never been more important for first responders to have access to this life-saving drug,” he said, “because whether or not they have it when they show up to a call can be the difference between life and death.”