Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced today that the City of Boston’s addiction and recovery services are about to get an upgrade, taking a major step towards one of the more personal platforms of his campaign for the mayor’s seat.
“My administration is committed to bringing new support to the recovery community as part of our public health and public safety plans,” said Mayor Walsh in a prepared statement. “We’re connecting the dots to make sure people get access to treatment.”
The Associated Press reported this week that many heroin addicts across the country struggle not only to find spots in treatment facilities, but also to pay for the expensive services that most insurance companies don’t pay for.
Through a collaboration with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, a grant and research organization that works to expand access to health care services in Massachusetts, the city will create an expert advisory committee to evaluate the status of addiction and recovery services in Boston. Their work will culminate in a study that is expected in 2014, which will lay the foundation for a new Office of Recovery Services that will be run out of the Boston Public Health Commission, and will be funded by $300,000 of Mayor Walsh’s 2015 fiscal budget.
“Despite significant and historic health care reform in the Commonwealth, treatment for mental health and substance use disorders remains challenging in terms of access, capacity and cost. I think we can all agree that the current system is complex, overburdened and in need of reform,” said Audrey Shelto, president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield foundation in a prepared statement.
In Massachusetts, state police said there were 185 deaths in four months from November to February due to suspected heroin overdoses. Governor Deval Patrick declared a state public health emergency at the end of March due to the sharp increase in heroin and opiod addiction in recent years. Since 2000, the number of deaths as a result of heroin and opiod addiction jumped from 363 to 642 in 2011.Chelsea Rice is a health producer for Boston.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaRice.