WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — A task force created by Gov. Charlie Baker to tackle the state’s heroin and prescription drug abuse crisis is getting to work.

The 17-member panel will hold a public meeting on Tuesday in Worcester, the first of four around the state.

READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson Says Its Booster Shot 94% Effective Against COVID-19

Baker has called the overdose epidemic a public health emergency and one of the top priorities of his administration. He’s asking the task force to report back to him by the end of May with strategies for dealing with addiction, treatment and recovery.

READ MORE: 'It Looked Like Niagara Falls,' Massive Water Main Break Floods Part Of Beacon Hill

State officials say there were 978 opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts last year, a 46 percent increase over the previous year.

Tuesday’s session will be held at Quinsigamond Community College. The other meetings are scheduled for March 19 in Greenfield, March 26 in Plymouth and April 2 in Boston.

MORE NEWS: COVID Vaccine To Be Required At All 15 Massachusetts Community Colleges

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.