Last year alone, drug overdoses killed 72,000 Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that record number reflects a 10% increase from the year before. In Massachusetts alone, there were more than 2,000 deaths due to overdose in 2017. It’s an epidemic that we, as a community, must fight.
Last week, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law new legislation that expands opioid addiction treatment in Massachusetts. The new law has been described as “the most aggressive and progressive” in the country, and given the crisis of opioid abuse in the Commonwealth such an approach is most welcome.
One aspect of the law that MHA believes deserves special recognition is a new set of standards and an established credentialing process for recovery coaches. A recovery coach is someone who has received specialized training to provide guidance and support for people who are just beginning their recovery and are especially vulnerable to relapse. Importantly, a recovery coach also has lived experience with addiction and is in long-term recovery. When it comes to getting clean and staying clean, a recovery coach has “been there” and “gets it” in a way only someone who has experienced addiction understands. A recovery coach is a critical resource for an individual in recovery. “You’ve got to find some way to help people stay in the game and stay clean once they get clean,” said Governor Baker. “Creating a credentialing framework and making it possible for services to be reimbursed [by insurance] is a huge part of how we ultimately win this fight.”
MHA applauds Gov. Baker and the state legislature on the passage of this crucial new legislation. It makes us even more hopeful for the people we are helping through our recovery support programs which, for years, have included the very type of recovery coaches that state law now recognizes and standardizes with regard to training and credentialing. The law’s provisions should help to make the services of a peer recovery coach available to more people struggling to overcome their addiction.
So overall this is great news, but it doesn’t mean we are in the clear. Opioid addiction is not over. To win the war against opioid addiction we must fight every battle relentlessly. We must improve education so people of all ages understand the life-threatening risks involved with opioids. We must help people struggling with addiction to get the help they need to get clean and stay on their road of recovery. By working collaboratively, our community, our Commonwealth and our nation can challenge the opioid epidemic and prevail, but we can’t let up.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call us. We want to help. 413-233-5343.
Cheryl Fasano, President & CEO, MHA