At-Large Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman is urging state leaders to assess and address the availability of detox and treatment services for opioid addiction in Western Massachusetts, and provide funding to allow for appropriate and safe transportation for impacted individuals to treatment facilities when local options do not exist.
“We are hearing consistently from our community partners and outreach workers that there is continued regional inequality when it comes to availability of treatment services for individuals suffering from addiction who are ready to take that crucial first step to recovery,” said Councilor Lederman, Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services.
Lederman detailed the need in a letter to Springfield’s state legislative delegation last week, in which he points out that while opioid overdose rates have decreased slightly statewide, they have continued to increase in Springfield and Hampden County.
“We have advocated for a strong response for several years,” said Lederman, who detailed efforts local officials have made including authorizing a syringe access program to increase outreach, arming first responders with narcan, and implementing a response program to reach out with resources to those who suffer non-fatal overdoses, “but we need the state to step up to make sure when we reach those individuals the resources are there.”
Lederman states that while there may not always be treatment beds available in the Greater Springfield area, beds are often available in other parts of the state, but transportation creates a barrier for many. At the urging of public health advocates, he is advocating for funding to reinstate a program previously operated by the city in the late 90’s, when at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic transportation to treatment facilities was provided in partnership with community organizations. That program was funded by a state budget line item.
“Working closely with those on the ground over the last two years has given me intense insight into the ongoing tragedy that continues to surround the opioid epidemic. As long as individuals and families continue to suffer, we cannot and should not step back from providing the most critical services and public health response possible,” said Lederman.
Councilor Lederman’s recommendations came after consulting with local public health organizations and officials.