Trahan, DiZoglio propose solutions to fight addiction
ANDOVER — Addiction to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids – and other drugs – continues to destroy lives.
Those who are committed to putting an end to the addiction crisis, however, are working harder to find solutions and help addicts recover.
The Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Project, an organization that helps addicts obtain treatment, held its quarterly meeting at Greater Lawrence Technical School on Saturday morning. More than 100 people attended, including Congresswoman Lori Trahan, D-Lowell, and state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen.
Trahan, who began her first term in January, said effective treatment for those with drug problems should be available for everyone, “not just for the privileged.”
“We’re going to keep fighting for that,” she said. The congresswoman said she has told colleagues about the steps Massachusetts has taken to help addicts.
DiZoglio, a veteran of three terms as a state Representative before she was elected to the Senate in November, said she wants Massachusetts to produce an even better record on the treatment options offered to drug addicts.
See ADDICTION, Page B11
Congresswoman Lori Trahan, left, and Sen. Diana DiZoglio take questions about the opioid crisis at the Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Project quarterly meeting at Greater Lawrence Technical School.
AMANDA SABGA/Staff photo
Continued from Page B1 Cur rently, an addict in Massachusetts can be forced into treatment if someone else, such as a family member, files a motion for a section 35 hearing before a court. If the judge determines the person needs treatment, he or she gets committed.
Many other states do not have an equivalent of the section 35 hearing, according to Cole Welch, president of the Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Project.
The addict himself or herself, however, does not have the power to ask a judge to commit him or her to treatment.
DiZoglio said an addict should be permitted to tell a judge, “I have an issue. I’m a danger to myself,” and be ordered into a drug treatment facility. “You shouldn’t have to be high on drugs to get the services you need,” DiZoglio said. She urged those present to “keep chipping away” at the addiction challenge.
“We have had some really great successes,” she said, noting that there are many former addicts who have won their battles against substance abuse.
Barbara McKallagat, of Lawrence, pointed out that insurance companies often do not provide coverage for pain medicine that does not contain opioids. Many an addict has said that his or her addiction began with a legally prescribed painkiller.
“There is no question we have to unravel a lot of policies,” Trahan said. Rules can be changed, she said.
Trahan said she is “optimistic” that Congress will pass a couple of measures, during the current session, that will help addicts.
While DiZoglio and Trahan are working at the state and federal levels to obtain for help for addicts, plenty of local efforts are being launched to aid those with drug problems and their families. Philip Lafey, the founder of the Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Project, said his group meets with people with substance abuse issues and their family members every Monday night at the Methuen police station.
The Granite United Church of Haverhill is offering the Jericho Walk on May 4. The purpose is to aid the campaign against drug abuse, according to Jennifer McAninch, a Holy Family Hospital emergency room nurse who is among the organizers of the walk.
Registration for the walk will start at 10 a.m. at GAR Park in Haverhill. The onemile walk to Grace United Church, 284 Kenoza Ave., will commence at 11 a.m.
A prayer tent will be available for those who want to pray for solutions to the overall addiction crisis or for individuals who struggle with the disease. “Amazing speakers,” according to McAninch, will share messages of hope.
Granite United Church’s worship band will provide music and yes, there will be food and games for children.
Just as Joshua and his troops broke through the walls of Jericho in Old Testament times, the church is praying for a “spiritual breakthrough from addiction,” McAninch said.
Philip Lahey, the former president of the Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Project, asks a question during Saturday’s quarterly meeting at Greater Lawrence Technical School.
AMANDA SABGA/Staff photo