Markey unveils plan to prevent overdose deaths, expand access to treatments, modernize addiction treatment system

Boston (February 24, 2014) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) was joined in Taunton today by White House Drug Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikoske and basketball legend Chris Herren to call for increasing resources for lifesaving solutions to the recent spike in drug overdose deaths. Taunton has experienced 64 overdoses and five fatalities since the beginning of the year. 

Senator Markey outlined a three-pronged plan to address the opiate drug epidemic, calling for expansion of naloxone programs for first responders and bystanders, greater access to proven addiction treatments and modernizing America’s addiction treatment system. Senator Markey announced he would be introducing the “Opioid Overdose Reduction Act”, legislation to create a federal ‘Good Samaritan’ provision to shield people who administer the overdose drug treatment naloxone in an emergency from civil liability. Senator Markey, Mr. Kerlikowske and Mr. Herren were joined by local and state leaders, treatment providers, first responders and community members working to combat prescription drug and heroin abuse. 

“Heroin and prescription drug addiction is an equal-opportunity destroyer of lives,” said Senator Markey. “While we work to prevent new addictions and develop effective cures, we cannot wait to reduce the harms of addiction now. We need to ensure that every community can equip its first responders with lifesaving treatments to prevent overdose deaths and protect those bystanders who are in a position to intervene to save lives. I look forward to working with the Obama administration and state and local leaders to initiate a plan of action to combat this tragic heroin and prescription drug epidemic.” 

"Opioid drug abuse in America -- including in Massachusetts -- is an urgent public health issue,” said Mr. Kerlikowske. “The Obama Administration is committed to dramatically reducing the rate of overdose deaths by helping equip first responders with the lifesaving overdose reversal drug, naloxone. But it is not enough to reverse overdoses. Science has shown us that drug addiction is a disease of the brain – a disease that can be prevented, treated, and from which one can recover. Substance use disorders, including those driven by opioid use, are a progressive disease. This demands that we address the issue by emphasizing prevention, treatment, and smart-on-crime approaches that seek to break the cycle of drug use, crime, and addiction. I commend Senator Markey for his leadership on this issue and will be working with him to change the tide on this epidemic."

“Communities such as Taunton are suffering the tragic impacts of this heroin and prescription drug epidemic,” said Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye. “We need to take action now to ensure that not another life is lost to a drug overdose here in Taunton or anywhere in the country. I thank Senator Markey for calling attention to this critical public health crisis, and I join him in committing to take action to protect our families, our children and our neighborhoods.”

“The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, representing more than 12,000 firefighters across the state, took a unanimous vote last Friday at our state meeting to be the first state in the country to equip all fire departments with Narcan,” said Edward Kelly, president, and Willie Ostiguy, EAP Consultant, of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. “Firefighters are in the business of saving lives and Narcan can be a life-saving tool for those in need, and that’s why we want it on all apparatus.”