Opioid misuse and overdose in Somerville is one of the most pressing public health health problems facing the city today. The Somerville Office of Prevention and Somerville Overcoming Addiction are already working on a number of initiatives throughout the continuum of substance misuse care — prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery — and these actions should be continued and supported by the city. But there’s more the city could be doing.
One important and sustainable way the Board of Aldermen could further help reduce overdoses would be to advocate for the hiring of a full-time substance misuse coordinator; the coordinator would help people navigate the treatment system and manage the city’s response to the opioid crisis. Elizabeth would support our police department in a “treatment not punishment” initiative; Gloucester recently implemented a policy of connecting people with addictions to treatment and resources when they approach the police for help, to great success and acclaim, and Somerville should take note.
Elizabeth would also seek to work with the courts to involuntarily commit repeat offenders for treatment, and push the city to collect up-to-date data on the number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses so that the city’s responders can better understand who is being affected by this crisis.
Finally, we should work to prevent future addiction by implementing school health curricula that cover the whole continuum of substance abuse prevention (from underage drinking to opioids), as well as by promoting proper storage and disposal of prescription drugs and the enrollment of prescribers in the Prescription Monitoring Program.