METHUEN — As the number of opiate-related deaths across the state continues to climb, Gov. Deval Patrick has declared a public health emergency that gives the Department of Public Health emergency powers to combat the epidemic.
Meanwhile, a group of state senators has selected Methuen as the site of a hearing Monday to discuss the problem and treatment options in Massachusetts. Methuen has seen an explosion of heroin sales and arrests in the last year.
In declaring the public health emergency, Gov. Patrick outlined steps, including an immediate ban on one drug and the commitment of $20 million to increase drug treatment and recovery services.
In Methuen, the group of six senators will hear testimony from a list of invited people that include police and schools superintendents in a forum from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Hall and is open to the public.
“As a family member of an addict, I want people to realize that addiction is a disease and the best treatment is prevention,” said Phil Lahey, a local addiction and treatment advocate. “There should be no shame in treatment.”in a city that has seen an explosion of heroin sales and arrests in the last year.
The committee is comprised of state Sens. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, William Brownsberger, D-Belmont, John Keenan, D-Quincy, Joan Lovely, D-Salem, Linda Dorcena Forry, D-Boston and Richard Ross, R-Wrentham.
State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, requested the committee come to Methuen. In January the Senate formed a special committee to study drug addiction and treatment options in Massachusetts with a focus on the civil commitment process to address what Senate President Therese Murray described epidemic of opiate addiction in Massachusetts.
“Substance abuse affects everyone and is a public health epidemic that demands our attention,” O’Connor Ives said. “It is important that the Senate committee hear from advocates, clinicians, law enforcement, first-responders and residents in the Merrimack Valley about this problem.”