FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 8, 2014
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins joined U.S. Senator Edward Markey and a panel of experts consisting of state and local officials and the heads of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and other key organizations to discuss the creation of a comprehensive strategy to address the growing opiate and prescription drug abuse and addiction epidemic.
Convened at Boston Medical Center, dozens of representatives from medical, law enforcement and legislative backgrounds offered their professional expertise in discussing the causes and potential solutions to this widespread issue.
Among the items addressed during the event were funding for and access to alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs, diversionary and prevention programs, and what to do with physicians who overprescribe addictive medications, Along with several other topics.
“We’re here to address the epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse and to talk about how we can arrive at some solutions,” said U.S. Senator Markey. “This is an issue that afflicts millions of Americans and directly affects many more. I look forward to standing alongside my colleagues as we fight this battle against addiction and reduce the tragic effects of this epidemic.”
Speaking about the people that he sees every day in his facilities, the Suffolk County House of Correction and the Nashua Street Jail, Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins concurred that more programs were needed to address the plague of drugs and those affected by it.
“In my jail and house of correction, north of 85% of all inmates and detainees are committed for issues stemming from drugs or alcohol, or both,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “About 42% of my population suffers from some form of mental illness, ranging from mild personality disorder to severe mental illness. Many of these people don’t really belong in prison – they belong in diversionary programs and mental health treatment beds.”
Sheriff Tompkins also spoke about the implementation of a new Vivitrol treatment program for those in his facilities who need it. Vivitrol, or naltrexone, is a non–addictive medication used to treat alcohol dependence and prevent relapse to opioid dependence after opioid detoxification.
Other participating agencies and attendees included: the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH); Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, the City of Boston’s Health and Human Services Chief Felix Arroyo; Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu; Boston Police Department Superintendent In–Chief William Gross; the Boston Fire Department; and Emergency Medical Services (EMS).