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Patrick-Murray Administration Continues Fight Against Substance Abuse, Pushes for Federal Funding

Press Release

Location: Boston, MA

Governor Deval Patrick today announced that the Patrick-Murray Administration has filed two federal grant applications to continue to support vital substance abuse prevention and treatment services in the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (MASSBIRT) application requests $2.8 million in federal funds and the MassCall2 application requests $2.93 million. In total, if awarded, the annual $5.73 million will support issues related to the early identification of substance use and enhance the Commonwealth's efforts to combat the rise in drug-related overdoses.

"Substance abuse is a serious issue across our state that cannot be ignored," said Governor Patrick. "Federal funding will enhance our efforts to provide people with the services they need to overcome their addictions and lead productive lives."

"The rise in drug-related overdoses is extremely alarming, and we need to continue to address this issue," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Chair of the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. "As we remain dedicated to combating this crisis, continued collaboration with our partners on the federal level as well as communities across the Commonwealth will help support services for people dealing with substance abuse."

"It is essential that we help people afflicted with substance abuse issues in every way we can," said Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach. "These grants could make a huge difference in the life of many families that deal with this problem on a daily basis."

The MASSBIRT program, established in 2006 in partnership with Boston Medical Center, integrates screening for alcohol and substance abuse into all general medical settings with intervention and treatment. All too often, unhealthy alcohol and drug use goes undetected in medical settings and develops into a more significant and acute condition. Since the program's inception, over 75,000 patients have been screened by the program in a variety of settings including emergency departments and community health centers.

"Substance abuse tears apart families and ravages communities. This investment will support our state's education and prevention efforts, combat substance abuse in the early stages and quickly treat drug-related overdoses. Now our communities will receive the financial help they need to keep our neighborhoods safer, healthier and drug and alcohol free," said Senator John Kerry.

"As stories about abuse in our area of OxyContin and other illegal substances have come to light over time, I have worked to ensure that federal funds have been allocated toward eradicating drug use among youth and others. I support the Commonwealth in seeking this money, well-knowing that our at-risk community in Lynn, Gloucester and elsewhere can benefit from the services provided by these two critical programs," said Congressman John F. Tierney.

"Substance abuse has a devastating impact on our communities and families and these federal funds would address a real need, particularly during these difficult economic times," said Congressman Stephen F. Lynch. "I commend Governor Patrick for responding to and continuing to fight against such a serious problem. These federal funds could help break the cycle of substance abuse for many and give them a second chance."

The second grant application is for the state's MassCall2 program. Over the last few years, this program has helped the state respond to the dramatic increase in opioid related overdoses by distributing federal funds to 15 communities across the Commonwealth with a mandate to fashion a local response to prevent or reduce fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses. The funding was originally awarded to the communities based on population, incidence of opioid overdoses, need, and current resource availability. Participating cities include Gloucester, Lynn, Lowell, Quincy, Cambridge, Fall River, New Bedford, Brockton, Worcester, Springfield, Revere, and several neighborhoods in Boston. The filed MassCall2 program will provide continued federal funding for these communities.

As a result of the MassCall2 grant, communities have developed local coalitions of police and criminal justice agencies, first responders and emergency medical technicians, users and bystanders to address the fear of contacting 911 while also providing education and training on the prevention and reversal of opioid overdoses. Communities have also worked in conjunction with a pilot overdose reversal programs which have reversed over 500 overdoses since the program's inception in 2008.

"I'm glad to see that the administration will be applying for these funds, which will certainly complement the work we've done on the Committee," said Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan, Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. "This funding will help in addressing addiction, which is a very real issue in every city and town in this Commonwealth."

"We have a growing substance abuse problem in this state, especially with opioids," said Representative Liz Malia, Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. "Given the economic pressures we are all facing right now, and the fact that in such difficult times individuals suffering from addiction are at a greater risk, it is more important than ever to keep our focus on helping those struggling with substance abuse issues. These grants would go a long way towards helping those individuals get the treatment and prevention services they so desperately need."

"These programs are excellent examples of the ability of good prevention work to succeed in the fight against OxyContin and heroin addiction. Over the past three years both grants have enabled the Commonwealth to combat the effects of addiction in these communities," said Senator Steven A. Tolman. "I support the decision to reapply to the federal government for another three years of funding and am optimistic that Massachusetts' application will be successful."

The applications were prepared by the Governor's Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. The Council is often designated as the advisory committee for federal grant applications related to substance abuse and annually submits applications for both MASSBIRT and MassCall2. This is the fifth year for submitting both applications

"Programs like MASBIRT and MassCall2 offer opportunities to identify and treat or prevent the disease of addiction and its insidious influence on the community," said William Luzier, Executive Director of the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention.

Governor Patrick re-established the Interagency Council for Substance Abuse and Prevention on January 11, 2008. The mission of the Council is to maximize coordination between the Department of Public Health and a number of other state agencies that have programs or departments that deal with the issue of substance abuse and/or prevention. The Department of Public Health and the Council establish standards for the operation of substance abuse prevention and treatment services. Currently, the Council is working on ensuring the success of the state's three recovery high schools, reducing the rate of drug overdoses and curbing underage drinking.

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