HCN News & Notes

Sen. Velis Raises Alarm on Fentanyl Prevalence, Need for Narcan

WESTFIELD — Ahead of the Massachusetts State Senate’s FY 2025 budget debate this week, state Sen. John Velis is raising the alarm about the prevalence of fentanyl throughout the state and the need to expand funding for the life-saving overdose reversal tool Narcan. Velis has filed two amendments, Amendment 570 and Amendment 571, to the Senate’s budget on this issue that will be considered during debate this week.

Amendment 571 would drastically increase the amount of funding that the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) receives to purchase and distribute Narcan. Amendment 570 would establish a statewide public-awareness campaign to inform residents about drug contamination and the need for Narcan and other harm-reduction services

“Right now, our Commonwealth’s drug supply is more contaminated, and deadly, than ever before,” said Velis, who chairs the Legislature’s Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery Committee. “Massachusetts continues to lose thousands of lives each year, and a large reason why is because people don’t realize just how contaminated our supply is. We need to do whatever we can to educate people about these risks, but we also need to drastically need to expand access to the most powerful tool we have to actually save people’s lives when an overdose happens, and that is Narcan.”

The most recent data from the state Department of Public Health showed there were 2,323 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths between Oct. 1, 2022 and Sept. 30, 2023, and that the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths has increased by 3% on average per year since 2015. The data also showed that fentanyl was detected in 93% of opioid-related overdose deaths in the first three months of this year.

Individuals in Massachusetts can access Narcan from the pharmacy or access it through a BSAS-approved program that carries Narcan. Velis noted that funding for this program has not kept pace with community need and the increased drug contamination in Massachusetts.

“Anything that we can do to make people more aware and to get Narcan into more hands, we should be doing, because it will truly save lives,” he said. “This is my number-one priority heading down to Boston for budget debate, and I don’t intend on coming back to Western Massachusetts empty-handed.”