New England governors are looking for a way to combat opioid abuse. Credit: Getty Images
New England states will work toward data sharing and a cross-border prescription monitoring program in their effort to combat what they said was an opioid abuse epidemic.
The agreement on the data sharing followed a meeting of five New England governors on Tuesday at Brandeis University where they discussed regional efforts to address the drug problem.
Gov. Deval Patrick met with the governors of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Additionally, the university's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Center of Excellence will use federal funding to analyze data from each state’s prescription monitoring program and recommend best practices to assist with the region’s efforts, Patrick's office said.
"This epidemic has affected too many of our families and communities, but if we work together, we can recover together and we will come out of this crisis with strength and hope," Patrick said in a statement. "Each of the New England governors has taken strong action to combat opiate abuse in their own states, and now we are acting together as one region to take on this challenge."
Patrick in March declared a public health emergency in response to the growing opioid addiction epidemic. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of unintentional fatal opioid overdoses increased 90 percent, according to the state. In 2012, 668 Massachusetts residents died from unintentional opioid overdoses, a 10 percent increase from 2011. And in the five-month period between November 2013 and March 2014, state police reported that at least 140 people died of suspected heroin overdoses in communities in which they respond to homicides.
In February, Revere’s health officials issued an advisory after a spike in opioid overdoses. Between the start of the year and the end of February, there were 44 calls for help for opioid-related overdoses in Revere. Also in February, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that he wants all of the Hub’s first responders to begin carrying Narcan, the overdose reversal drug.