Massachusetts is in the middle of a battle against deadly opioid abuse and as the fight against drug addiction surges, Governor Charlie Baker presented a $27 million plan that could boost the state's ability to treat drug addicts and lessen the stigma that surround addiction.

Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that heroine associated deaths in the U.S. jumped by 300 percent from 2010 to 2013 with most users getting addicted to the drug after using prescription drugs.

Evidence shows that many young athletes have become addicted to painkillers after getting injured. The governor shared how he advised his son, a football player in college, to use pain medication sparingly.

Four of five heroin abusers start on painkillers. Last year alone, 1,000 individuals in Massachusetts died of opioid overdose.

"Opioid abuse is a public health epidemic," Baker said. "The solution to eradicating opioids is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and will require all of us to rethink the way we treat addiction."

The plan requires new treatment beds by July 2016 and calls for increased education in safe painkiller prescribing practices; new specialists on addiction who will oversee health practitioners; and updates to opiate prescription database.

The state will likewise coordinate with pharmacies for programs on drug take-back as well as improve timely reporting of overdose deaths, which could help identify the hotspots for heroin. Access to Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an overdose, is also to be provided to law enforcers.

Attorney General Maura Healey, who is part of the task-force that Baker created to make recommendations that would address problems on addiction, said that care should be accessible for addicts as it is for individuals with heart disease and those with diabetes so the state should improve access to substance abuse and mental health services.

The 18-member group, which released 65 recommendations to address the problem, said that over 6,600 people have been killed because of opioid.

"Over the past decade, more than 6,600 members of our community have died because of opioids, and behind those deaths are thousands of hospital stays, emergency department visits, and unquantifiable human suffering inflicted upon individuals, families and our communities," the task force said.

The new program follows the roll out of new policies in Gloucester this month that protects addicts from getting arrested when they turn over their drugs and agree to enter treatment.

Photo: Karen Neoh | Flickr

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