One goal that every political, health and law enforcement official in Massachusetts should share for the year ahead is reducing the tally of heroin deaths.
State police said Thursday that they investigated 755 suspected fatal heroin overdoses in 2015, and those figures do not include Boston, Worcester and Springfield (as well as Pittsfield), where they do not have jurisdiction over homicides. This strongly indicates that the 2014 total of about 1,200 deaths attributed to opioid abuse was exceeded.
Joanna Peterson, executive director of the family support network Learn to Cope, told The Boston Globe 2015 was "the worst year I've ever seen," adding that prescription painkillers continue to be at the root of the problem. This is an issue that the health community, including the Massachusetts Medical Society, continues to address, and the state Department of Public Health has added a new tool.
According to The Globe, the DPH has arranged for doctors to participate in a multistate notification system to make it difficult for patients misusing opioids to obtain drugs in neighboring states undetected. This should benefit Berkshire doctors given the county's proximity to three bordering states. Unfortunately, Vermont is not yet participating, as are Connecticut and New York and, within two months, Massachusetts. Vermont should join a program that will help address opioid addiction at its roots.