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Merrimack Valley

February 22, 2014

Sheriff Cousins calls for more detox beds

LAWRENCE — Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins said the county and state desperately need more detox beds for criminal offenders with drug addiction problems.

“We need more detox beds. That’s what I’m always telling state officials,” Cousins said yesterday. “We don’t have enough that we need. A lot of times we will have to call hospitals for relief. It’s a struggle to find a place,” he said.

Cousins made the comments yesterday during a visit here by Governor Deval Patrick, who visited the Lawrence Correctional Alternative Center where he discussed his series of reforms to reduce recidivism among the state’s inmates by 50 percent over the next five years.

Massachusetts has the highest rate of heroin users in New England, a problem that part of the state’s criminal justice challenges.This year, the state Senate has formed its own 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 as an epidemic of opiate addiction in Massachusetts.

Since 2006, there has been a 67 percent increase in the number of civilly committed individuals in Massachusetts.

“The most important thing is keeping the public safe,” Patrick said yesterday.

Male addicts committed under the state’s civil commitment law are sent to the correctional facility in Bridgewater, while women are sent to Framingham. Addiction treatment centers in New Bedford and Brockton also provide treatments in Section 35 cases, according to the governor.

Part of Patrick’s plan is to add 64 new impatient beds to the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and continuing the $10 million legislative expansion of civil commitment services by adding 80 new Transitional Support Services bed and 200 new residential beds and community based case management services.

“After speaking with Sheriff Cousins, I know that this problem is something that has continually gotten worse over the years and we plan on addressing it,” he said.

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