This is part 3 of WGBH's  5 part series, called, "The New Face Of Addiction", confronting the state's opioid and heroin crisis. 

41 deaths from heroin overdoses occurred in 2013 in the northwestern part of Massachusetts in Hampshire County and parts of Franklin County, that’s 17 people per 100,000, according to  District Attorney David Sullivan, who says the statistics are far above the state rate.

The data points to a simple fact; the drug addiction problem is widespread throughout Massachusetts, with few counties being immune.

In the WGBH series, “The Face Of Addiction”,  with WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay, experts discussed how drug addicts, those who take opioids such as painkillers like oxyContin and opiates, such as heroin…may be people you interact with everyday.

Drug Addiction Treatment Crisis

Northwestern DA Sullivan says his area is one of the hardest hit by drug addiction. He says they've had “zero” treatment beds in his area in the last ten years, and that’s a major source of the crisis.

Because of that fact he says, “We’ve really focused on how to come up with solutions, and use a multi-prong approach. This is an addiction, this is a disease that we have to address and we’re not going to arrest and incarcerate our way out of it, according to Sullivan.

He says there looking at medically assisted treatment and outpatient services for people who are suffering from substance abuse disorder.

He says they're relying on hospitals to intercept and  refer people who overdose, and help get them to the right resources.

He says law enforcement and judiciary is another avenue to find solutions. However, he adds one of the issues is the problem of relapse , especially when drug addicts don’t get the right services.

State Opioid Task Force Action Plan

Sullivan applauds the Governor Baker's Opioid Task Force Action Plan that was released in this spring, after months of formulating a statewide strategy for dealing with addiction, including the release of county-by-county data on opiate addiction.

“It’s the best blueprint I’ve ever seen in any state from a holistic point of view…. from prevention all the way to treatment and recovery. It’s a public health crisis and if we invest right now, these task force recommendations are going to save a lot of money, but human misery down the line, according to Sullivan.

He says reforms in health insurance will assist in getting people treatment. Sullivan says, "the insurance companies need to understand that this is an investment and if you front load with treatment and recovery, you're not going to have the extraordinary costs that come with overdoses and treating people with serious illnesses that can result in $400,00-500,000 dollar hospital bills."

This is part 3 of WGBH's  5 part series, called, "The New Face Of Addiction", confronting the state's opioid and heroin crisis.  Next: A former addict now treatment council tells the governor what is needed next.

To listen to the two part interview with Northwestern DA Sulllivan, click on the audio files above.