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Opioid Epidemic

The United Way of Pioneer Valley has for 96 years been a member of the community, and improved the lives of our neighbors through our work, grants, and events. We touch people of all ages and demographics throughout our service area, and pride ourselves on our many partnerships with companies and agencies in our geographic footprint.

The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on our communities. The crisis is not only about overdoses, but also shared needles, which contribute to high rates of HIV and Hepatitis C transmissions. Our police and first responders are in danger of needle sticks on the job, and the general public is at risk from discarded needles left in unsafe places. The opioid crisis also creates a much greater need for foster care for children whose parents are fighting addiction.

United Way of Pioneer Valley has become involved where we can by connecting groups and task forces that are making some important advances in this field. Because of the relationships we have developed, we have come to understand the value of harm reduction.

We at United Way of Pioneer Valley feel strongly that harm reduction techniques such as a syringe exchange are essential components of the opioid epidemic treatment continuum, and we plan to do our share to ensure that the community receives education about the definition of harm reduction and its positive effects.  Harm reduction can make some people uncomfortable because of the stigma that still follows addiction.  It is important to note that syringe exchanges serve as a gateway to make a positive connection with a drug user, so when that person is ready for treatment, they have a place to get help.

We must work together to employ every available technique to treat this epidemic.  A syringe exchange program was passed on February 28, 2018 in Springfield. It would be a smart, compassionate way to help people struggling with addiction, while making our entire community safer.

2015/2016 Opioid-Related Deaths by County

Hampden: 104/135
Hampshire: 16/36
Franklin: 19/15
Berkshire: 33/37

United Way of Pioneer Valley works with the following local Task Forces & Organizations on opioid issues:

Hampden-Wilbraham Partners for Youth
Monson Substance Abuse Community Partnership
Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative
Springfield Coalition for Opioid Overdose Prevention (SCOOP) 
Hampden County Addiction Taskforce (HCAT)
Baystate Health
Mercy Medical Center
Tapestry Health
Center for Human Development
East Longmeadow Youth Safety Committee
Gandara Center
West Springfield Care Coalition

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction focuses on promoting scientifically proven ways of mitigating health risks associated with drug use and other high risk behaviors, including condom distribution, access to sterile syringes, medications for opioid dependence such as methadone and buprenorphine, and overdose prevention. These approaches, although backed by scientific evidence, often bring controversy with use because of the stigma still attached to addiction use disorders.
For drug users, harm reduction recognizes that many drug users are either unable or unwilling to stop, do not need treatment, or are not ready for treatment at a given time. Harm reduction programs focus on limiting the risks associated with unsafe drug use, including HIV transmission, viral hepatitis, and death from overdose. Naloxone (Narcan) is an overdose-reversing drug considered part of harm reduction methods.

Sample of MA Police Departments that carry Naloxone/Narcan

All MA State Troopers carry naloxone
Ashland PD
Athol Police
Boston University Police, MA (1st US Campus Police to carry naloxone, started 8/12/14)
Greenfield PD (Sept 2014, Last Rescue June 2015)
Longmeadow PD (Started 2/2016)
Quincy PD  (800 Rescues as of Dec 2017, top program in the US)
Salem Police
Salisbury PD (Started Feb 2016, 2 reversals within 5 days of starting)
Somerville Police
Taunton PD (1st reversal March 2016)
Wakefield Police
Walpole PD
West Brookfield Police (Sept. 2014)
Wrentham Police
53 groups total statewide

Local departments NOT carrying Naloxone/Narcan

Holyoke
Springfield
Chicopee
Amherst
Pittsfield