Education, Awareness and Compassion: Dealing with Newton's Opioid Crisis

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We all know the the Opioid Epidemic does not discriminate...

Opioid-related overdoses and deaths are on the rise, even here in Newton. Our community has seen a dramatic increase in the number of reported deaths and overdoses due to opiates. 

As Councilor, I would urge the mayor and my fellow Councilors to appoint an opiate task force to determine best practices within the medical, social work and law enforcement fields in order to proceed with a community-wide response plan to the crisis. 

My plan would include:

Education:  Adequate education on the harmful and fatal outcomes of abusing heroin and prescription opiates. Education must include breaking down stereotypes with respect to the types of people that become addicted. The reality is that heroin addiction does not discriminate based on race or socioeconomic status. 

Disposal Stations: Statistics show that most heroin addictions begin when individuals abuse prescription painkillers. Having these powerful and highly addictive drugs at home in your medicine cabinet increases the chances of abuse by children, teens and others. Newton residents should be made aware of where they can safely dispose of prescribed opiates like fire stations, police stations and pharmacies. 

Law Enforcement: Police officers and firemen are first responders in cases where opiate use results in an unsafe situation for the user and those around them or when someone is in crisis. As Councilor, I would plan to sit down with our first responders and city social workers to determine if NPD and NFD are adequately staffed to deal with the crisis. 

Partnerships with Local Hospitals and Non-Profits: Newton should seek to partner with local hospitals, healthcare providers and non-profits. Institutions should share data regarding the prescription of opiates, ER visits due to overdose, fatalities due to opiates and other best practices. Data is an important component of establishing effective education and vital community support systems.