Editorial: Attacking Addiction


MONDAY, MAY 11, 2015

IN Plymouth County the district attorney is throwing the book at a suspected drug dealer who allegedly sold heroin to a young mom who then overdosed and died, while in Gloucester police have announced a soft approach to handling addicts who want help with treatment.

Where some might see a conflict in two law enforcement philosophies, we see a kitchen-sink approach to tackling the state’s growing opiate addiction problem – and welcome them both.

“Substance abuse issues are haunting our neighborhoods,” Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz told the Herald last week. “We need to fight this problem on all levels in order to send a strong message and take back our communities.”

That includes, yes, charging the dealer who allegedly sold 25-year-old Paige Lopes of Wareham $80 worth of heroin that killed her, Cruz said. Lopes’ family said she struggled with addiction but had been sober for 90 days prior to the overdose.

Ninety miles north, cops are teaming up with hospitals and pharmacies to offer free access to Narcan, which can reverse the effects of overdose, and expediting access to treatment. Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said an addict who walks into his police station in possession of drugs but looking for help will not face charges, bu instead be guided to a detox program.

“We tried to think of innovative new ways to address the issue,” Campanello said.

New figures indicate that more than 1,000 people died of opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts in 2014, believed to be the highest ever – and a staggering 33 percent increase over 2012. Massachusetts simply can not afford to sit back and hope that the scourge of addiction will abate on its own under the existing public health and law enforcement framework. Not when so many young people are dying.

Not when a little girl in South Boston is left first fatherless, then eight weeks later, motherless, both of her parents dead of heroin overdoses, as the Herald’s Jessica Heslam reported recently.

There are countless angles from which to attack this crisis – from physician prescribing practices to funding for detox and treatment to support for grieving families. The commonwealth must address them all.

“On all levels,” says the DA. Through “innovative new ways,” says the police chief.

The kitchen sink.


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