March 3, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Tim Connolly 508 688-5565 or Paul Jarvey
WORCESTER – Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. today announced the formation of a Central Mass. Task Force to combat the rise of opiate abuse and overdose deaths in the county.
The task force brings together law enforcement, government leaders, health-care professionals and experts in the field of substance abuse.
Mr. Early pointed to the alarming number of overdose deaths – a record 978 in Massachusetts in 2013, 112 in Worcester County – as the need for a county-wide task force to address the problem.
He said the opiate-abuse problem needs to be attacked from every possible angle, stressing the need for prevention programs, access to treatment and aggressive prosecution of drug dealers and traffickers.
“We are making some great heroin trafficking arrests, but you can’t arrest your way out of the problem,” Mr. Early said this morning in a press conference at the Worcester County Courthouse. “You can’t prosecute your way out of this problem. I have said this time and time again, working hard isn’t good enough. You have to work smart and we are getting smarter and smarter on these issues. Being smart on crime means working on prevention.”
He said the application of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan by police and first-responders has already made a difference, but deaths from heroin and other opioids continue to be high.
It is expected that the number of overdose deaths in 2014 will approach the 2013 totals. There were 20 suspected overdose deaths in the county through Feb. 7 of this year.
“This is an issue that continues to cause a lot of pain, grief and tragedy,” Mr. Early said.
In addition to the county task force, Mr. Early is addressing the substance-abuse issue with three upcoming events, a Student Wellness Conference on Thursday, a SCOPE of Pain seminar for health-care providers on Monday and a Narcan training for police on a date to be determined.
Several local leaders also spoke at the press conference, including State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, State Reps. James O’Day and John Mahoney, Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Register of Probate Stephanie Fattman, Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus, Milford Police Chief Thomas O’Loughlin, Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau and Charles Faris, president and CEO of Spectrum Health Systems.