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) – It was a typical Monday morning at High Point Treatment Center in Brockton.
Classes, counseling and room cleaning were all underway. High Point has two other campuses, one in New Bedford, the other in Plymouth.
There are 800 residential beds altogether and all are filled, with waiting lists. Carol Kowalski is site director for High Point’s Meadowbrook Campus.
“I think the addiction epidemic is getting worse, said Kowalski. “We’re seeing more and more clients here. Last year we had about 2,000 admissions and this year it appears we are going to be reaching about 500 more.”
Emily, a patient at High Point for 12 days, agreed to sit down for an interview.
At the age of 39, with three children, she describes her last few years as a tough run and wants treatment to work this time.
“The biggest help to me has been other people who know what it’s like to sit there and beat yourself up with a bat daily, you know, and to struggle with the feelings that we feel because they are not nice at first, Emily explained. “That’s the hardest thing at first, to sit with self and try to overcome the feelings and refrain the negative thoughts because it’s like a tape that’s been playing for 39 years. I’ve got to rewind it and put a new tape in.”
Emily also said she needs more than detox.
“Detox, five days, not that I’m going to get everything back here, but it gives you the mindset, helps change the mindset because, physically, we have to detox from whatever it is, but here it’s healing the mind,” she said.
Dr. Jason Tracy is Chief of Emergency Medicine at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth. Last month, the hospital had three young fatal overdose victims in as many days.
“Emotionally, it is difficult as a physician to not be able to provide a longer term solution to this problem. We’re able to treat somebody and reverse their near death experience, but the ability to prevent them from coming back or having other long term effects from substance abuse, I think that’s a challenge for both providers and the system.” Tracy said.
“We need more resources as a system to deal with the substance abuse problem. If we were seeing the number of people die from car accidents that we’re now seeing die from overdoses, I do think we would be doing something different.”
Governor-elect Charlie Baker has made tackling the epidemic a priority as his administration prepares to take over.
“If you’ve talked to some anguished parents about this, you can’t help but come away thinking we have to do a better job on this,” Baker said.
Baker believes the epidemic still constitutes a statewide emergency, which Governor Patrick declared in March.
“Sure, that’s part of the reason it’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing the minute we come out of the gate,” he said.
Baker plans to form a 10 to 15 member coalition that he says will begin scaling out a policy approach.
“One of the things that troubles me about this issue along with the other things is that it’s very hard to get good statewide data on what’s going on and I think that’s something that my Department of Public Health is going to be all over,” Baker said. “We really do need to know what’s happening, where it’s happening and how we’re doing relative how we were doing last quarter and last year.”
Carol Kowalski has been on the front lines fighting the scourge of addiction for 40 years.
She says initially the battle involved alcohol addiction, but has now shifted to include opioid and heroin addiction. She has also scaled back her expectations.
“I think when we all first started, we all had hopes that we would save the world. Now, if we can save one patient and provide hope to someone, that’s what we can do,” she said.
When asked what she lists as number one on her wish list for 2015, without missing a beat Kowalski replied, “a miracle.”
Listen to part 3 here:
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