GOVERNOR BAKER HEARS OPIOID ADDICTION’s GRIM FACTS

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^ taking notes : Governor Baker at Opioid Panel hearing

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Yesterday at Gardner Auditorium in the State House, Governor Baker heard from a stream of witnesses, most of them addicts in recovery, what the opioid addiction crisis is all about. Prominent among those speaking was Jack Kelly, whom this medium endorsed when in 2013 he was a candidate for Boston City Council. He, too, is an addict in recovery, and for the past several months he has been maybe the most prominent of those from whom Baker has heard, both during the campaign and after.

It was easy to see why Baker has turned to Kelly, whom he met during the campaign, for information; at the Hearing, Kelly received one of the day’s biggest bursts of applause as he said, “during my campaign I was constantly told to tone down talking about my addiction, but I did not tone down, be cause I was not going to tone down who I am !”

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Jack Kelly : “I will not tone down who I am !”

Within the opioid addiction community, Kelly is a hero, because he has come all the way back from what he describes as absolutely down and out, all the way back to a good job, prominent positions in city services, and his city-wide candidacy. His heroism was bolstered by the testimony of others : parents whose children have died in addiction, or who have begged for treatment only to not find beds available, or who don’t have insurance to pay for it; advocates — including addicts in recovery, many of them young, who want addiction to be treated as an illness, not a crime, and to have insurance pay for treatment; advocates for homeless addicts, the mental health basis of much addiction, the ubiquity of painkiller pills, the epidemic of deaths and pain, witnesses of the disruption and anguish by which helplessly ill addicts impede their families.

Grimly Baker listened, doggedly he took notes, all through the day’s stark speaking.

The entire panel appointed by Baker was there. It listened inntently to the pain and helplessess testified to. Attorney General Maura Healey, Lieutenant Goveror Karyn Polito, labor leader Steve Tolman, Sheriff McDonald from Cape Cod, other service providers, and — chairing the hearing — Health and Human services Secretary Marylou Sudders heard it all.

So did Suffolk Sheriff Steve Tompkins, who sat i the audience’s front row, his presence recognized and thanked by the panel members.

Unfortunately few legislators were present. This was a shame, because it will have to be the legislature that enacts most of the addiction reforms testified for. Baker can, by executive order, require some chages, but not many : for example, that drug money confiscated by police be used to fund additional beds for addicts needing treatment. Baker cannot , however, budget the substantial increase in money needed to fund treatment, nor can he order that insurance companies pay for addiction treatment. Only the legislature can do these; and with few exceptions, none was in the room to hear the harsh facts of an illness crisis that claims about 1000 Massachusetts lives every year, and maye will kill more than that this year. The toll so far is 215 by heroin alone.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here ad Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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