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New Regional Effort Gaining Traction in Helping Overdose Victims

The opioid crisis plaguing America isn't just a problem effecting big cities; it's a crisis that is happening in our own hometowns, even our own neighborhoods.

According to the Department of Public Health, overdose fatalities in Massachusetts are steadily increasing every year. In 2012, there were 742 deaths in Massachusetts from overdoses; in 2014 there were 1,361; and in 2016 there were 1,933 – a 260 percent increase in just four years.

Not all overdoses end in fatalities, however. But overdose victims that do survive, as well as their families and loved ones, are left with questions about where to turn to for help.

A new program that connects overdose victims with resources for help 24/7 is gaining momentum in the local area, with several towns already jumping on board.

Amy Leone, owner of Community Impact and substance abuse counselor, founded the new Regional Substance Navigation Program. Thanks to a $52,000 grant to get the program started, Leone has been working with the Milford Police Department since the Fall to provide timely assistance to those struggling with addiction or overdose.

"We are able to connect someone who has overdosed with a human being right away," said Leone. "Someone who can help them and has the resources to point them in the right direction."

Although Leone said counselors and police departments have worked well together for many years, this more formal program will allow both parties to track information on overdoses and recovery channels.

"We need to understand what is going on in the moment so that we can provide assistance immediately," said Leone. "We also need to know what is out there that people are overdosing on."

Leone said that since the Regional Substance Navigation Program was rolled out in Milford, they have been able to provide counseling and assistance to numerous individuals, and year-to-date have provided assistance to 60 people and their families struggling with addiction and overdose.

"We want them to know right away that there is help and that there are resources that can help them," said Leone.

With Milford joining the new Regional Substance Navigation Program, other towns are beginning to follow suit.

Upton just approved a $1 per person per capita to join this regional program.

"Before, when we responded to an overdose call, we would take them to the hospital and leave business cards with them of where they could seek help," said Upton Police Chief Michael Bradley. "Now, we can have clinicians there to meet with the victim face to face to reassure them and their family and to walk through the process of treatment."

In the past five years, Upton has seen 15 overdoses, three of them fatal. Bradley said that the new program will help the police and counselors track information on the overdoses more closely to help those struggling with addiction get the help they need.

"We see [this program] as being very beneficial," said Bradley.

According to Leone, Hopedale and Mendon have just recently joined the Regional Substance Navigation Program, and hope that Bellingham, Medway and Holliston will agree to join as well.


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