Over the past two years a string of drug related deaths rocked East Boston and drew attention to the current problem with opioid addiction and addiction to other substances.
The House and Senate’s comprehensive substance abuse bill was signed into law by former Gov. Deval Patrick before he left office. In it are tools that will form policy for supporting a continuum of care and removing barriers that stand in the way of effective treatment. There is also $5 million for substance abuse education and prevention across the state.
However, newly sworn in Governor Charlie Baker, who was a champion of tackling the areas opiate addiction crisis on the campaign trail, now wants to cut that $5 million line item for substance abuse counselors. Baker Administration argued last week that the $5 million was never implemented so it is technically not a ‘cut’ because it will keep the current level of drug counselors.
The $5 million to add more drug counselors was passed last year because legislators like Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, one of the chief architects of the bill, felt at current levels drug counselors needed more help to address the opiate epidemic affecting places like Eastie.
“While I understand that Governor Baker inherited a budget deficit and he is faced with extremely difficult decisions, it is very disappointing that the new program for drug addiction education programs has been eliminated,” said Petruccelli. “If we are going to make progress in the future with regards to reducing the numbers of our citizens who are faced with the disease of drug and alcohol addiction then kids need to be educated more. I will continue to seek funding for this vital program in this session.”
On the street programs like East Boston Against Substance Abuse (EBNASA) have lobbied for more funding and more resources to tackle the heroin and prescription drug problem.
“Substance abuse is a serious issue that impacts all of us in one way or another,” said President for the Harborside Community Center Board that oversees EBNASA Adrian Madaro