Public Policy Forum on Opiate Addiction
October 22nd, 2015

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan Convenes Public Policy Forum to Address Opioid Abuse

MEDFORD - Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan in partnership with Hallmark Health System and Senator Jason Lewis, hosted a special meeting of the Eastern Middlesex Opioid Task Force today at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The forum, Crafting a Solution from the Inside: A Public Policy Dialogue Forum, involved a panel conversation with Alan Macdonald, President and CEO, Hallmark Health System, Marie Burke, District Court Drug Court Coordinator, Dr. Brian O’Connor, President, Middlesex Recovery PC, and six individuals in various stages of recovery in addiction.

The conversation, part of District Attorney Ryan’s new county-wide Mobile Public Policy Forum, was moderated by the District Attorney. These forums are designed to encourage individuals in recovery to share their personal experiences with key stakeholders offering recommendations to improve access to care and other critical services.

District Attorney Ryan is using these forums to bring together leaders from law enforcement, health care providers, and policy makers to propose unique and innovative solutions to the opioid crisis. The inaugural forum was held last month at Lowell General Hospital.

“The task force has taken a multi-pronged approach to the opioid crisis,” said District Attorney Marian Ryan. “A major part of the solution is education. The personal stories shared in these forums will help us shape our approach moving forward to ensure we are using the most effective solutions to address this epidemic.”

“We are proud to be working in partnership with the Eastern Middlesex Opioid Task Force,” Alan Macdonald, President and CEO of Hallmark Health System added.  “It is heartening to see such a dedicated group of clinicians, first responders and behavioral, and social health professionals joining together each month to address the multifaceted issues connected to opioid addiction.”

During this legislative session Ryan filed legislation that would limit opiate prescriptions from an Emergency Department or walk-in clinic to a 72 hour supply.  A similar provision was later included in Governor Charlie Baker’s opioid bill filed this month. Additional legislative efforts by Ryan include filing legislation to regulate a new synthetic chemical drug, NBOMe – often referred to as “N-bomb.”  N-bomb is illegal under federal drug laws but not yet classified as a controlled substance in Massachusetts.

The Opioid Task Force focuses on combating the increase in drug overdoses in the eastern region of Middlesex County, serving the communities of Malden, Medford, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, and Wakefield. Twenty percent of the overdose deaths in Middlesex County in 2015 occurred in these communities, with 80 percent of those deaths caused by heroin. 

Led by District Attorney Ryan, the Eastern Middlesex Opioid Task Force includes first responders, police and fire officials, municipal health workers, doctors, nurses, social workers, substance abuse counselors, community-based advocates and probation officers.  Numerous elected officials, public administrators, and health care executives have joined Senator Lewis on the Task Force.

Middlesex County is the most-populous county in Massachusetts and one of the most-populous counties in the country with 54 towns and cities comprising over one quarter of the population of Massachusetts.  The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has offices throughout the county, including in Ayer, Cambridge, Concord, Framingham, Lowell, Malden, Marlborough, Newton, Somerville, Waltham and Woburn.