Part 5 of WGBH series, “The New Face Of Addiction,” concludes with an interview with Governor Charlie Baker, who discusses his opioid action plan for the ongoing crisis in the Commonwealth.”

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Governor Charlie Baker says, “I’ve never seen anything like the kind of momentum this (drug) addiction crisis has.”

On Friday morning, Baker retold a personal story about the potential for drug addiction to WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay, to underscore the dramatic rise in opioid and heroin addiction across the state.

Steady Rise In Overdoses

‘This thing has a ton of momentum in a bad way…look at the numbers from 2009 to 2014….like a 400 percent increase over a short period of time…which is like a straight line up in the air,” and he says, “ we need to break the trend in terms of overdoses and deaths and addiction, and try and move it down.”

The Governor tells Seay before he was elected to office; he realized the death toll from overdoses was rising steadily across the Commonwealth.  He says, “the overdose rates in some of our counties were just stupefying, and some of the health care workers I was talking to when I would visit the hospitals some nights were saying there were four overdoes that night, which raised the issue for me in a big way.”

Baker says while campaigning for Governor, he collected a lot of anecdotes. He says, “and during the campaign, I asked some of the policy people on the campaign…. can you collect some data on this (drug overdoses) because I’m hearing about it everywhere I go.”

The Governor tells Seay he was motivated to create an opioid task force to tackle the issues and make it a priority within his administration, before he was elected.

Personal Story

Baker says, “ three days before the election…my son, who plays football at Union (College) was playing in a football game in upstate New York, and broke his arm in two places. Based on everything I heard about pain meds and addiction…. I said please…. you know, take as few of those pills as they give you as possible, and get on something like Ibuprofen as fast as you can.”

Baker says he began thinking about the addiction problem differently as a Dad, only after he had heard about the increase in overdoses in the state.

The Governor outlined a plan in his inaugural address, and organized a task force, which made its recommendations and formulated an action plan this past June. ( see link below)

Governor’s Opioid Task Force

Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders is Chair of the Governor’s Opioid Task Force, which on June 22, 2015 came out with its Action Plan to Address The Opioid Epidemic In The Commonwealth. On Jun 11,2011, the task force released its Recommendations Of The Governor’s Opioid Working Group.

Sudders says, " the recommendations are broad because we see this across the state as a public health crisis and you really want to target interventions around prevention intervention, treatment and recovery."

Addictions, says Sudders, are being viewed as a chronic medical condition with the understanding that people will relapse. She says a public awareness campaign was rolled out in June 2015.

She says her office had been contacted by many parents, who say their children became addicted to heroin as a result of a sports injury.  Sudders says, “ many parents, during listening sessions, would start off with the heart wrenching comment, “we’re a good family,” and she says, addiction knows no boundaries.

Opioid Action Plan

Baker says a number of elements are being implemented around treatment, which expands the length of time in detoxification.

He says there will be other initiatives whether it’s an IOP ( Intensive Outpatient) program approach or other community based support. Baker says, “If you're successful in treating someone.they don’t end up in the hospital.”

We expect to spend the next four years on this. Baker says, “you can’t just wave a magic wand and expect that something that has become this pervasive and expect to wipe it away…. it’s going to take awhile.”

Drug Addiction Resources

There are resources to obtain help. The State Health and Human Services Department has set up a Mass Substance Abuse Hotline at 1-800-327-5050. And the department has established a web site www.helpline-online.com.

The message the department is using to reach out to families and addicts is “Stop addiction in its tracks.”

Part 5 of WGBH series, “The New Face Of Addiction,” concludes with an interview with Governor Charlie Baker, who discusses his opioid action plan for the ongoing crisis in the Commonwealth.”

To listen to the interview with the Governor and the Secretary with Bob Seay, click on the audio files above.