4 Cities Unite to Address Heroin / Opioid Addiction: Somerville, Cambridge, Everett, Watertown

State-funded Prevention Collaborative between Somerville, Cambridge, Everett and Watertown reports on needs and next steps, including
prevention initiatives and NARCAN use

SOMERVILLE – Strategies to expand efforts to prevent heroin and opioid use and overdoses, including the use of the opioid overdose antidote nasal NARCAN, are now being developed by a four-city Massachusetts Opioid Addiction and Prevention Collaborative (MOAPC) that includes Somerville, Cambridge, Everett and Watertown. Funded by a $100,000 Massachusetts Department of Public Health MOAPC grant awarded in July 2013, the Collaborative conducted an in-depth needs assessment and presented its findings on Feb. 10 to Somerville’s new Substance Use and Mental Health community stakeholder group, which unites community stakeholders working on suicide prevention, jail diversion and substance use.

The assessment’s review of hospital and 911 call data confirmed that the primary at-risk population in Somerville is young adults aged 20 to 29, primarily males. The rate of overdoses in Somerville is slightly lower than in the state, but data from stakeholder interviews indicates that in all four communities, there is growing concern about overdoses and misuse of prescription drugs. With the resources and supports of the current grant, the Collaborative has identified the following goals to work toward prevention:

1. Disseminate information to address the misconceptions around prescription drug use.
2. Provide education on the proper disposal of prescription drugs including via the kiosk available 24/7 at the Public Safety Building, 220 Washington St, no questions asked. (Did you know that most youth have identified that they access prescription medication most commonly from their or a loved ones’ medicine cabinet?)
3. Raise awareness about supports for the recovery community including:

• Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline: 1-800-327-5050
• Families Anonymous @ 121 Washington St., Medford. Meets Tuesday 7 p.m. 781-727-1803
• Learn 2 Cope @ Spaulding Hospital, 1575 Cambridge St., Cambridge. Meets Monday 7 p.m. 508-738-5148. Use main entrance and follow signs to the 3rd Floor Chapel.
If you have questions, stop at the reception desk. Free visitor parking at Lot E on Hovey Avenue.

“We recognize this is just a start and we also recognize the need to gain further input from many perspectives including those in recovery as well as family members, faith groups and providers,” said Trauma Response Network Manager and Clinical Youth Specialist Patricia Contente. “This is a problem that we need to solve together as a community—and across communities—and we thank the State for their support of our efforts.”

Building on Past Prevention Efforts and Expanding NARCAN Access

The Collaborative builds on the ongoing, long-term prevention efforts by the City’s Somerville Office of Prevention, Somerville Cares About Prevention, and the Somerville Trauma Response Network, including their “How to Save a Life” program established in 2011 in response to an increase in fatal overdoses that year. In 2011, the City had 23 nonfatal overdoses and 3 fatal overdoses of individuals between the age of 26 and 34. In
response, the Somerville Health Department in collaboration with Police, Fire, Teen Empowerment, Cambridge Health Alliance and a host of other community providers offered the “How to Save a Life” program, which included training in NARCAN and the distribution of NARCAN to targeted community members. NARCAN is an antidote for overdoses caused by opioid class drugs, which include heroin. It is important to understand that NARCAN is not effective on overdoses caused by other substances such as cocaine or alcohol.

“Through the Collaborative, we have been working once again to train local providers in the use of NARCAN, and in Somerville we are fortunate that Cataldo ambulance services carry this antidote and that Police and Fire have been moving quickly to get their members trained to carry in response to the increase in fatal overdoses in the region in the past few months,” said Cory Mashburn, the Director of the Somerville Office of Prevention. “At the same time, it’s important to remember that we must also focus on prevention efforts long before we ever get close to the risk of an overdose.”

“When we faced this crisis nine years ago, we went through a lot of healing. We learned a lot. And one thing we learned is that addiction charges us to be vigilant. We must take a comprehensive approach to opioid use and overdose prevention,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “That’s why we are making sure that our first responders get the training they need and will have NARCAN on hand, so that if we can save a life, we will. But it’s also why our prevention efforts cannot let up. We know from experience that when the community comes together to educate, provide services, talk to our youth, and provide trauma response it can prevent tragedy. The work of saving a life begins much earlier than the moment someone dials 911.”

The Somerville Fire Department reached out to the Cambridge Health Alliance earlier this year to establish NARCAN training for Somerville firefighters, which they expect to begin soon, and the Somerville Police will begin NARCAN training as part of their CPR program in March.

“Heroin and prescription drug addiction can affect any family, and we need to make sure that the resources needed to support those struggling with addiction or the addiction of a family member are not just available, but also that they address this problem from start to finish, from drug prevention to overdose rescue,” said Ward 1 Alderman Matt McLaughlin. “This is not just an individual or isolated issue that some should battle alone. Unaddressed addiction impacts the whole community and puts others, especially our younger residents, at risk of being drawn into this destructive cycle.”

The next stakeholder meeting on Substance Use and Mental Health will be held on April 14 from 12-2:30 p.m. at the Somerville Public Safety Building. The Office of Prevention is also in the process of scheduling “How to Save A Life” on April 8 and a promotion highlighting National Take Back Day on April 26.

For more information or to participate in upcoming programs please contact Patty Contente at 617-625-6600 ext. 4325 or pcontente@somervillema.gov or Cory Mashburn at 617-625-6600 ext. 2570 or cmashburn@somervillema.gov. Also look for announcements on the City calendar and our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SomervilleCares.

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