Six months ago, WBZ’s Mary Blake examined the state’s heroin epidemic in a 15-part series entitled “Heroin, from Prescription to Addiction.” As the year draws to a close, she checked back with those on the front lines, to see what, if any progress has been made.
BOSTON (CBS) – Heroin is still a major concern for officials around Massachusetts.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst case scenario, Boston State Rep. Liz Malia says, “At least we’re not a minus 5.”
In Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter’s opinion, it’s gotten worse.
“If it was 8 six months ago, we’re at a 9 or 10 now,” he said.
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis has a more positive view.
“I’ll say 51 out of 100, and six months ago we were under 51 out of 100. I think we’re making progress, I really do,” he declared.
Evangelidis admits some of the numbers are remain alarming. 85 to 90 percent of the inmates in his jail are there due to drug and alcohol addiction.
“Judges have said to me recently if we didn’t have substance abuse in our system, we could probably turn our courthouses into movie theaters and our jails into bowling allies,” said Evangelidis, who points with pride to innovations like Community Opportunity Advancement Programs.
COAP monitors inmates through GPS bracelets. The inmates work outside of the jail and go home each night.
“If you screw up in these centers, you can be revoked and sent to jail, but it does this at a fraction of the cost, usually around $5,000 a year versus $50,000 or $60,000. We’re also finding some of the results are better than putting people behind bars,” he says.
Evangelidis is now working to get the word out about vaping pens. Designed to get people to quit smoking, they are being used with alarming frequency by young people looking to get high on hash oil.
“We’re in the early stages but it’s taking off like wildfire right now,” he declares.
On Beacon Hill, new regulations on insurance coverage, approved unanimously in July in the final minutes of the legislative session, are getting a big thumbs up from Rep. Malia.
“I think it makes a difference and I think the providers are saying it’s making a difference,” she says.
Vic Degravio, President and CEO of the Association of Behavioral Health Care, had his fingers crossed. In June, he had said the bill represented the most dramatic change in 40 years.
“The key point in the law is it requires commercial insurers to pay for detox and detox stepdown services, which combined, should be about 14 days of service,” he explained.
The insurance mandate, which received little media play, signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in August, kicks in October 1, 2015.
Listen to part 1 here:
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