ROXBURY, Mass.—Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Avellone has continued to make substance abuse treatment reform a key issue in his campaign platform. He first announced a six-state initiative to battle substance abuse in all New England states and has since released a video showcasing his proposed Office of Recovery.
The Office of Recovery would operate under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Its main focus would be getting substance abusers into treatment instead of prison. Regional coordinators who collaborate with local detox and rehabilitation facilities would staff the new agency, which would also include the current Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse.
During his tour of the Dimock Center in Roxbury, Avellone unveiled a plan that would bring the governors of all six New England states together alongside congressional representatives and senators from each state to form a taskforce focused on comprehensive treatment, recovery and prevention. Avellone believes that regional cooperation can reduce the smuggling of prescription drugs and heroin into New England and make the region a national leader in both prevention and treatment.
Avelon also feels that some doctors as part of New England’s drug problem. “We need to aggressively monitor prescriptions and make sure that doctors are not overprescribing,” he said. Avellone is not alone; recently, The New York Times and the New Republic both ran articles highlighting the issue.
“Users switch back and forth—to pills, then back to heroin when it’s available, and back again,” Stephen E. Lankenau, a sociologist at Drexel University, told the Times. “The two have become integrated.”
In the New Republic, Graeme Wood writes, “Every year since 2007, doctors have written more than 200 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers … and about four out of five new heroin addicts report that they got addicted to prescription pills before they ever took heroin.”
“As a doctor who has spent a lifetime in healthcare, I know that substance abuse and addiction is a health issue,” Avellone says in a new video released shortly after his visit to the Dimock Center, “not a criminal justice one.”