In Massachusetts, the number of deaths related to opioid use has skyrocketed in the last 15 years.
Back in 2000, the state reported 338 opioid deaths and 493 vehicle deaths. In 2013, those figures flipped - there were 967 opioid deaths and 371 vehicle deaths. In 2014, 1,0008 opioid deaths were reported.
"I know we can do something about this by approaching it as a disease," said Attorney General Maura Healey. "There's no greater priority, when you look at two or three people dying each day ... It is a devastating crisis, a public health epidemic."
Alongside Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Healey joined necn Friday for a roundtable discussion on the possible solution to this terrible epidemic.
Treating Addiction as Disease
"I know people that died of overdoses, I know people that are struggling today with heroin," said Walsh, who added that he was encouraged by public officials' commitment to combatting addiction in the state.
"Most of these people were prescribed something by a doctor or a dentist based on a desire to resolve something on a short-term basis," said Gov. Baker.
The panel discussed Gloucester Police, which made headlines this year for the department's plan not to arrest drug users if they bring drugs or drug paraphernalia to the station and seek treatment. Chief Leonard Campanello was recognized for the plan by lawmakers in Washington.
Responding to the Addiction Crisis
"In 26 days, he's already put 23 people in treatment. Those are people aho might otherwise be dead," said Healey. "I know all of us - district attorneys, sherrifs, police - are united in treating this as a disease. That's what this is. We're not going to incarcerate or arrest are way out of this."
Healey added that what works for Gloucester may not work for all communities, but explained that we must come up with plans that do work.
"I think what's happening in Gloucester's a great program," said Walsh. "If we do something like that [in Boston], we have to make sure there's a bed available for everyone who walks through the front door."
"The great opportunity here is to try a number of different things, and if there's certain things that work, we should replicate them," said Baker.