On January 25, 2016, Spectrum’s President and CEO Charles J. Faris joined Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. in a community awareness forum at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) to discuss the local impact of the opioid epidemic.
Sponsored by the Central Mass Opioid Task Force, the event is the first of many such forums planned throughout the County. The District Attorney’s Task Force was organized nearly a year ago to help inform solutions to the opioid epidemic in Central Massachusetts. The ARHS event was co-sponsored by state representatives Carolyn Dykema, Harold Naughton and Danielle Gregoire, as well as state senators Jamie Eldridge and Harriette Chandler.
Alongside Mr. Faris and the District Attorney were Dr. Stephen Martin, a family practitioner who runs the Barre Family Health Center Office-Based Opiate Treatment Program, representatives from Learn to Cope, public safety officials from Northborough and Southborough, and individuals in recovery. More than 100 community members attended the event to hear the panelists share their thoughts on how the opioid epidemic has become so severe and how best to combat it.
“One of the most valuable tools in our fight against the opioid epidemic is educating the public,” said Mr. Faris. “It’s important for parents, teachers and community members to understand addiction is a disease that can affect anyone regardless of where they live. It’s equally important they know where to turn for help if the disease impacts their families. With more than four decades of experience in addiction treatment, Spectrum Health Systems is uniquely qualified to assist in educating the public on both fronts.”
With Worcester County reporting over 100 unintentional opioid overdoses per year, it’s clear the work of the District Attorney’s Task Force is on the front lines of educating the public and coordinating the efforts of municipal, county and state government in addressing the epidemic. Mr. Faris presented data from the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS) to those in attendance, highlighting the increasing rates of prescription opioids and rising heroin use in each of these communities, along with other parts of the state.
Southborough Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus echoed those data points with his own experience having seen the impact of opioid addiction on his community, “Over the years we’ve found that the problem doesn’t have a ZIP code,” he said.
A comprehensive bill aimed at addressing opioid addiction is currently with a team of Mass House-Senate negotiators; much of that legislation was informed through outreach efforts such as the ARHS forum. The bill seeks to impose limits on the quantity of opioids a doctor can prescribe and requires that mental health professionals provide a substance abuse evaluation to anyone who enters the emergency room suffering from an opioid overdose. Another proposal in the bill would require schools to educate students and athletes about drug addiction.
Based in Worcester, Massachusetts, Spectrum Health Systems, Inc. is a private, non-profit substance abuse and mental health treatment provider. Spectrum offers the largest and most complete continuum of addiction treatment in New England – including inpatient detoxification, residential rehabilitation, outpatient services, medication-assisted treatment and peer recovery support.
Brendan Melican, Public Relations Manager
(508) 792-5400 x7113