The Opioid Crisis in Massachusetts

By: Mark Gray – September, 2017

If spending $71M ( 2010) to drive addicts to their next ‘fix’ over a 2 year period doesn’t prompt Massachusetts voters to act then, what will?

From 2012 to 2016 opiate deaths nearly tripled in this state. Opioid deaths went from 698 deaths to 1,979 in just this 4 year time frame, whereas over the prior 11 year period opiate deaths only grew at a 7% rate, (355 to 613).

The years 2013 and 2014 marks a pivotal time in this epidemic’s exponential growth. Opiate pain medication went from being dispensed to 76 million people nationally in 1991 to 207 million in 2013, making the U.S. the largest global consumer of opiate drugs; nearly 100% of the world’s hydrocodone and 81% of oxycodone consumed by the U.S.

From 2004 to 2008 opiate emergency department visits more than doubled. Massachusetts showed a 26% growth in 2014 with opiate overdoses, and a 500% growth in Fentyanyl. Although the Massachusetts Department of Public Health describes this as exponentially growing, they will not disclose why it’s growing at an alarming rate.

What the snap shots of data through this time frame show is that the opiate problem has been consistent and known for a long time. Information shows that the money and programs sold to the public as solutions have NOT been successful in dealing with the problem.

Starting before 2001, a direct correlation can be drawn between Medicaid, heroin, and opiates with a 5-7% increase rate until recently when ‘something’ jump started the exponential growth.

With more than a decade of direct correlation between government funding and opiate abuse, it shouldn’t be difficult to extrapolate the cause; the ACA [Obamacare] and the flooding of funds to Medicaid. From 2012 to 2016 Massachusetts Medicaid spending increased 32.5% to $17.1 billion, not including grants. Massachusetts caseloads grew by 143,000 and $1.1 Billion with the ACA, Obamacare.

In 2014 Medicaid costs were nearly $20 billion due to the bump in funding. In 2016 it was $17.1 billion and nearly 24% of the Massachusetts budget. Despite the data, no one appears to draw the connection between funding and drug use, although many articles now are breaching this cause and effect with all the public interest.

The associated costs are areas like DCF [Dept. of Children and Families] is already littered with horrific problems. In 2016, 64 children died receiving state services. 68 died in 2015. There was also an increase in children taken from parents, 13,165 kids in 2012 increased to 15,895 in 2015.

It is estimated that 80% of new hepatitis ‘C’ infections are a result of intravenous injections.

Costs and resources not measured here are from efforts like the ‘Clean River Project’ that have cleaned up drug nests where children are. They have videos that discuss the 600,000 people who drink from the water source where needles and containers are constantly discarded causing Hazmat teams now being trained to deal with Fentanyl, cities having to clean up all the dirty needles, sleeping and shoot up sites within their borders.

Lawrence police in one month received 16 overdose calls, 47 drug violation calls, and 60 “man down” calls. Recently 14 needles were found by the South Lawrence elementary school here in Lawrence.

Health care CEO’s in 2015 (top 20) made $409.84 million, an average of more than $20 million per CEO. The top ten medical lobbyists, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, spent $940.88 million, more than $94M per company.

When last I contacted Senator Warren’s office, who sits on the Health and Human Services committee, she refused to respond. Not only on this issue, but any issue since she has taken office. The same goes for Senator Markey, whose staff said that Veteran Services is something they don’t deal with.

As for our local politicians and state reps., I contacted all those representing the City of Lawrence, yet not one returned emails about this issue. Despite the millions and billions spent on this epidemic, along with the 46 OD deaths last year in Lawrence alone, Lawrence’s own State Rep Juana Matias, Frank Moran, Dianna DiZoglio, and State Senator Barbera L’Italien did not respond.
Further, under Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, not only have murders gone from 1 to 7 on his watch, but overdose deaths in 2016 rose from 9 to 46.