Making Progress:Gov Baker Talks Addiction With EBNHC Specialists

Last Thursday after being sworn in to his second term, Gov. Charlie Baker delivered his inaugural address.

In it, Baker discussed opioid addiction and the steps he and the legislation has taken to combat the substance abuse and mental health issues in the Commonwealth.

“On opioid addiction we’ve made great progress. But we didn’t get into this crisis overnight and we won’t get out of it overnight either,” said Baker. “The members of this Legislature have been true partners on this issue, enacting two major bills that build on our four pillars of reform: prevention, education, treatment and recovery. Not all that long ago, families, providers and first-responders had virtually no hope. Today, we’re one of a handful of states that can say that overdose deaths have dropped since 2017. There are interventions and policy changes that have worked and others that show promise. We also added initiatives like credentialed recovery coaches that will be coming online throughout 2019 and beyond. Dealing with opioid addiction is enormously difficult.”

Shortly after making those remarks Gov. Baker headed over to the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to see firsthand one program that seems to be working to combat addiction.

EBNHC has run the widely successful MAP (Medication Assisted Pathway) program that helps Health Center patients combat their addiction to opioids. MAP is EBNHC’s  treatment plan for opioid dependence that includes heroin and narcotic painkillers.

In this program physicians and behavioral health providers work together to manage each patient’s care.

The grant to EBNHC aims to address the opioid crisis by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment using the three Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder, reducing unmet treatment need, and reducing opioid-overdose-related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment and recovery activities for opioid use disorder.

The Health Center also recently received $269,561 towards its ongoing successful opioid treatment programs that includes integrated mental health services. The grant from the  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has helped the EBNHC expand patient access to quality substance use disorder and mental health services.

Before holding a press conference, the Governor and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders joined a roundtable discussion focused on recovery for EBNHC patients struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and other health issues.

“I am humbled by the fact that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have made EBNHC their first stop after their inaugurations to discuss this important subject,” said EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes. “All of us share a deep concern over substance abuse and mental health disorders in our community. 

“This afternoon we touched on critical pieces of our approach, our innovative programs like integrating substance abuse recovery programs with our mental health and primary care programs and our partnerships with community organizations and stakeholders that enable us to have a unified approach to combating this deadly disease. We look forward to working with Governor Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito and Secretary Sudders in now only combating this crisis but also improving the health of every resident in Massachusetts,” she said.”

Gov. Baker thanked Lopes and the entire EBNHC staff for letting he and the Lt. Gov. Polito to stop by and touch base on this important subject that has affected tens of thousands of lives in Eastie and across the state.

“EBNHC has a long history of excellence and success,” said Baker. “I first came to know EBNHC when I was HHS Secretary in the 1990s because they were running the only PACE Program in the country, a program that gives support to seniors in the community and allows them to age in place they way they want to. Because of EBNHC’s history of experimental programs like PACE and given where we are with the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts made EBNHC the place we wanted to come visit. We have done many things that have worked really well on the prevention and education front and we’ve made progress.”

While Baker said the state is doing great work on the front end by educating families and others on the key issues concerning opioid addiction, as well as adding a lot of treatment capacity for those struggling with addiction, there is more to be done on the back end.

“The next piece of this is figuring out how to help people that get clean, stay clean,” said Baker. “This has been a huge issue and this whole idea of creating a recovery program like the one at EBNHC that can become model is a way for us to start helping people get the supports that they need stay clean.We need to start becoming far more community oriented and proactive like EBNHC has been for a long time. So it made sense for us to come to a place with a proven track record to stretch its capacity to perform because we are going to be judged not only by the job we do when an addict walks in the door but what happens when they walk out the door.”

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