Thanks to NAADAC Govt. Relations Intern Mara Gray for guest-blogging this post!
Earlier this month, Massachusetts State Senator Steven A. Tolman (Brighton) penned a
Boston Globe editorial called "The Deadly Epidemic No One's Addressing." His editorial emphasizes that the disease of addiction--though far more prevalent than swine flu!--doesn't get the attention it deserves. Seventy-eight servicemembers from Massachusetts have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for instance, yet 3,265 Massachusetts residents die
every year due to opioid-related overdoses alone. Beyond the countable deaths, there are thousands of individuals and families who suffer with addiction every day. Many times, there are no treatment options available for these people due to low health care coverage and high costs.
Tolman emphasizes that not only are good people suffering from addiction, but our economy is also suffering. For example, hospital costs in Massachusetts were over $200 million for emergency services for opioid-related overdoses in 2007 alone. Millions of dollars are being spent annually to cover addiction-related illnesses; millions of dollars are lost in the workplace due to low productivity of these individuals; millions of dollars are spent on addiction-related illnesses like heart disease. Yet millions of dollars could be saved if preventative measures were taken and treatment made available.
It is great (though far too rare) to hear state legislators speak out about such an important topic, especially one that is so central to current health reform debates (in which Massachusetts is a leading model for a national program). But State Senator Tolman has not only been speaking about substance use, he has been actively working to fight it as well. When we called his office to inquire why he wrote this editorial, a spokesperson informed us that Senator Tolman has been working tirelessly on Oxycotin and heroin-related policy for over 10 years. He has coordinated with treatment centers, jail diversion programs, and pharmaceutical companies. He was also a major champion of Massachusetts’ recently passed mental health parity law. When he saw the attention of addiction was wavering, he made it his priority to bring mental health and substance use back into the spotlight through an editorial.
According to his spokesperson, State Senator Tolman has received a great deal of positive feedback as a result of his editorial.