State Needs U.S. Senator with an Opioid Plan Like Mine
By Geoff Diehl
Special to The Sun
There is no other word than “crisis” to describe the misery, the loss, and the deaths that are overwhelming our families due to the drug epidemic plaguing our communities. The very word “opioid” now strikes fear into homes, urgency among our police on the front lines of this calamity, and deepening concern among health professional who face staggering numbers.
Since 2001, Massachusetts has been facing a steadily rising rate of opioid-related abuse, addiction, and overdose. Opioid-related deaths have increased four-fold since 2000, and over two-thirds of the state’s cities and towns experienced opioid related deaths in 2013-2014. Amidst this growing epidemic, Massachusetts has been represented by a senator unwilling to hear the pleas of citizens desperate for a solution.
The people of Massachusetts deserve a hands-on leader who will stop the epidemic that is killing too many of our citizens. As your next United States Senator, I know that we can fight this battle and win. My first week in office, I will introduce legislation that will help prevent any more needless loss of life and assist the affected communities and families begin to heal.
While the state experienced addiction rates that almost doubled over three years, Senator Elizabeth Warren, not only voted against a bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, that would supply Massachusetts with $12 million for treatment and prevention, but even actively lobbied against the law that was supported by the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation.
It is time for the people of Massachusetts to be represented by a senator who knows the critical importance of stopping this epidemic in its tracks and will put in the long hours to fight the epidemic. Over the past several months, I have traveled to the border, rode along with a State Police gang unit, spent the day riding with an ambulance crew, and met with health care providers to get their input on how best to combat the epidemic. I have developed a multi-tiered plan that will addresses this issue at its roots. The plan increases access to treatment, works to find alternative pain management, modifies prescription practices, strengthens prevention education and stops the flow of illegal drugs into our country.
The first step is to increase access to treatment for addicts statewide, including federally funded inpatient programs and walk-in consultations for addicts seeking treatment. This increase in regulated clinical resources will alleviate wait times and allow patients to access treatment closer to home. Successful patient care also includes follow-up treatment and connection to sober living services to help addicts maintain sobriety and successfully engage in activities of daily living.
Another crucial part of maintaining sobriety is the introduction of alternative pain management solutions. When treating opioid addicts, there is little to no alternative for treating chronic pain and addiction simultaneously. Prescribed alternatives such as high doses of NSAIDs like Ibuprofen are often not strong enough, and addicts are left unable to manage their pain. To help solve this problem, I will support increased funding for research into FDA-approved pain management alternatives that will allow addicts to live pain-free lives without the risk of relapse.
In addition to prescription drugs, Massachusetts has been faced with an influx of illegal drugs. During my recent ride-along with the State Police, I saw just how challenging it has been for our state to combat the growing rate of opioid-related gangs, drugs, and violence. I plan to continue these ride-alongs once elected so that I can use first-hand information to drive informed decision making. I will fully support initiatives to stop the supply of illegal drugs at the border, increase federal support to local police, and enact harsh sentences for those who illegally smuggle and distribute illegal drugs across our cities and towns. We can no longer afford to look the other way while our communities are torn apart by these illegal substances.
In the face of this growing challenge, it is evident that the citizens of our state are looking for change. It is time for them to receive the support they need from their senator on fighting opioid abuse and drug-related crime. My plan to increase access to treatment, introduce alternative pain management solutions, modifies medication prescribing practices, and end the flow of illegal opiates into the United States will help people see that when we have a comprehensive and compassionate plan there is hope for a better future.
Geoff Diehl is a State Representative from Whitman and a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.