September 30, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Tim Connolly 508-368-7236
WORCESTER – The Worcester County District Attorney’s Office has received a federal grant to fund a multidisciplinary approach to reduce prescription drug abuse, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. announced.
The $393,928, two-year grant is one of only 14 given out across the country by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, an arm of the Justice Department.
The four specific goals of the project are to improve the data quality and monitoring; reduce the number of people diverting, misusing and abusing prescription drugs and opioids; reduce the number of unintentional opioid overdose deaths; and increase the capacity of law enforcement to investigate and respond to crimes involving prescription drugs and opioids.
“This is a great day in our on-going fight against opioid abuse in Worcester County,” Mr. Early said. “The money will support the strategies and activities that the Worcester County Opioid Abuse Prevention Task Force is currently working on to end opioid abuse.
“This funding couldn’t come at a better time for Worcester County,” he added.
Massachusetts and Worcester County have been suffering over the last three years from the opioid epidemic that has seen many people move from the abuse of pain medication prescribed by a doctor to heroin being bought on the street. Opioid overdose deaths spiked from 78 in 2012 to 120 in 2013. Thirty-nine of Worcester County’s 60 communities had at least one overdose death in 2013 and more than a quarter of the communities had multiple overdose deaths.
Last year there were 113 suspected overdose deaths throughout Worcester County. This year the number of overdose deaths has hit 89 in less than nine months.
“For our families in Worcester and across Massachusetts, tackling the opioid crisis is a top priority and this grant will make a tremendous difference,” Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) said. “I am grateful to the Worcester County Opioid Abuse Prevention Task Force for all of their work to end this terrible crisis. I know this strong partnership with the Justice Department will help them continue this important mission.”
Among the actions the grant will support are a partnership with the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University. Best practices currently evolving throughout the nation will be reviewed. A partnership with the University of Massachusetts Medical Center will focus on new strategies currently being developed to fight the epidemic. The grant will also fund an up to date public education campaign focusing on prevention. The combined effort will emphasize public awareness of the potential risks of prescription opioids, safeguarding and proper disposal of prescriptions and availability of treatment resources.
Also the grant partners with will share data and analyze the best information in this fight. The Worcester County Task Force will review and analyze the data. The analysis will help the Task Force target strategies to reduce prescription abuse and opioid addiction.