July 27, 2016
For Immediate Release
Contact: Tim Connolly 508-368-7236
FITCHBURG – Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. announced yesterday that during the first two weeks of the Worcester County Overdose Response Initiative two people have sought treatment for their opioid addiction.
Funded by a $106,000 Byrne Grant from the state Executive Office of Public Safety, the program aims to intervene with a person in the hospital emergency room after being saved from an overdose. The program, which started earlier in July, is a partnership among the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, AdCare Hospital, the City of Fitchburg and UMass Memorial HealthAlliance Hospital.
Fitchburg is acting as the pilot site for the Overdose Response Initiative. Early said he hopes that it will be expanded to other communities in the county.
“We saw the need for this sort of intervention during our meetings of the Central Mass. Opioid Task Force,” Early said. “The idea behind the program is to get treatment for people who need and want help with their addiction.”
After someone overdoses on heroin or another opioid, first responders often administer Narcan and then bring the person to the emergency room at HealthAlliance Hospital. At that time of crisis, a treatment specialist from AdCare Hospital meets with the patient. The treatment specialist, or coach, presents options to the person who has just survived a close call.
“This is the perfect opportunity to recommend treatment for their addiction,” Early said.
In the first 16 days of the program, coaches have met with six overdose victims and two of them chose treatment. They are now working with AdCare on their recovery.
“As an example of how this works, I will tell you the true story of a young woman who used heroin in the restroom of a business in downtown Fitchburg,” Early said at a press conference yesterday at the Fitchburg Police Department. “She would prefer that I not use her name at this point and I will respect that. After using heroin, she went back out on the street. Soon she slumped over and passed out on the sidewalk.
“An off duty firefighter who was driving by saw her and pulled over. She was blue, had no pulse, and was not breathing,” Early said. “He performed CPR and got her heart beating. Fitchburg Police and Fire arrived and gave her two doses of Narcan.
“The young woman was brought to the ER at Health Alliance Hospital where she met with a treatment specialist and two members of her family. She is now in treatment,” he said.
District Attorney Early thanked Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett and Sen. Jennifer Flanagan for helping the District Attorney’s Office receive the grant. He also thanked Karen Henry from the DA’s office for writing the grant.
Attending the press conference, besides Early and Flanagan, were Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale, State Rep. Stephan Hay, Police Chief Ernest Martineau, Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Dateo, Fire Capt. Anthony Marrama, AdCare Hospital President Jeffrey Hillis, AdCare Vice President of Clinical Services Dr. Patrice Muchowski, Chief Operating Officer of HealthAlliance Hospital Dr. Paul MacKinnon and HealthAlliance Hospital Community Outreach Specialist Amanda Landry.