The opioid epidemic is one of the largest health crises that’s faced the country in the past decade. Our local community is no exception. Opiate related deaths in Massachusetts exceed the national average, and opiate related deaths in 2015 were four times higher than in 2000. In Boston, thousands struggle with opiate addiction. Overdose deaths in 2017 were up significantly from the previous year. Despite these bleak statistics, both the City of Boston and local hospitals have been implementing programs to help residents struggling with an opiate addiction.
One such example is the PAATHS program, an effort launched by the City of Boston. PAATHS (Providing Access to Addictions Treatment, Hope and Support) offers phone and community support, as well as walk in consultations for people who are seeking information about or access to treatment. Staff help assess their clients unique treatment needs, and then makes recommendations and referrals to different programs and services. Some of the services they have helped people gain access to in the past includes Detox and CSS/TSS programs, medication assisted treatment, and outpatient treatment programs. The City of Boston wanted to ensure PAATHS is accessible to anyone who needs it, so anyone in the Greater Boston area is able to utilize this program regardless of their insurance status. In addition to PATHS, the city also offers training to residents for administering Narcan, a drug which can reverse opiate overdoses.
It isn’t just the Mayor’s office fighting to curb opiate use and deaths in the area. Boston Medical Center, a renowned local Hospital, has also started several programs which provide help to those struggling with and opioid use disorder. Take Faster Paths to Treatment for example, BMC’s urgent care center for substance abuse disorders. Staff quickly evaluate addicted individuals and refer them to a treatment network. The different treatments Faster Paths to Treatment offers to their clients are extensive and includes: referral to treatment centers, medication assisted treatment, overdose education, follow up services with a licensed counsellor, case management, access to a primary care physician, and access to community based services. Project RESPECT(Recovery, Empowerment, Social Services, Prenatal Care, Education, Community, and Treatment), another program launched by BMC, provides prenatal care and Recovery Services to pregnant women with an opioid dependence. Beyond the aforementioned services, BMC has continued to expand their addiction services with other programs like OBAT(Office Based Addiction Treatment), and SOFAR (Supporting our Families through Addiction and Recovery), which aids family units negatively affected by addiction.
The opiate epidemic unfortunately has showed little signs of slowing down anytime soon. It’s a persistent public health dilemma that continues to escalate not just in Massachusetts, but throughout many regions of the country. However, I am hopeful that the more cities and health institutions that follow Boston and BMC’s lead and start programs to educate and treat those suffering from addiction, that the tide could turn eventually, and the epidemic could improve.