^ The Governor’s panel on Opioid addiction as shown via his twitter account’s info-graphic
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Yesterday, as anticipated, Governor Baker announced his panel of advisers on the State’s opioid epidemic, a scourge that caused an estimated 978 deaths in the state4 last year. The panel is to gather input from, presumably, the addiction and recovery community, and to report back to him in May on what to do about it.
Here’s a link to Baker’s press release announcing the panel : http://www.mass.gov/governor/press-office/press-releases/steps-to-combat-opioid-addiction-crisis-announced.html
Like many, I had anticipated that the panel would include several members of the recovery community itself — people who are actually in recovery — because Baker has made it a priority to confront opioid addiction and support people in recovery all the way to full health. He said so in the campaign, and he made it a point to bring some prominent recovery people into his personal advice circle.
Because Baker did all that, and was seen by many to be doing it, quite a few people — including myself — seemed pretty sure that he would use the direct experience of those in recovery to frame a patient-oriented action program. We were wrong.
Baker has done the opposite. Rather than a panel heavy with those who need recovery serice, he has appointed a 16-member panel of people who provide services. as Baker tweeted yesterday, “people from prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery support and law enforcement form our 16-member Working Group.”
How, then, will people in recovery participate ? Doubtless he will continue to talk — as he has done fruitfully for months — with those in recovery whose personal experiences have resonated; but most of the recovery input will likely arise from recoverers testifying at the four regional panel Forums that Baker has planned.
In other words, the patients will remain patients and the service providers will remain service providers. The power allocations will not change.
The panel will take testimony and will almost certainly make recommendations as follows : one, what services can we best provide; two, how can we provide tjem in the most cost-effective manner ?
This is how Baker sees almost every major state service : best practice execution without wasting money. At a meet and greet in Charlestown just before the election, Baker was asked a health care question, and these priorities were the crux of his very specific response. Deliver the right services to the right people, and you’ll do right by the people; and you will save money.
It sounds cold, but it isn’t. Not weighing his Opioid panel heavily with people in recovery, he excludes the personal from a matter which to him is best seen as purely functional. Get it done, get it right, do it within budget.
“Get it done, get it right, do it within budget” is why we elected Baker in the first place. He knows it.
I do hope that once the Panel has delivered its report, Baker will ask his friends in the recovery community — a few of them quite prominent people in their own right — to execute the plan, or at least to serve on a board monitoring it. After all, the entire priority is them, right ?
Meanwhile, we await the panel’s public forums and its May report.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere