2015-10-02 / Neighborhoods

DA’s office gets $394,000 grant to fight opioid abuse

As the casualties from the nationwide opioid epidemic continue to mount in Worcester, the county's Opioid Abuse Prevention Task Force has gained a new weapon to fight the wave of prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction.

District Attorney Joe Early Jr. announced the D.A.'s office has received one of only 14 Harold Rogers grants given out nationwide by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance. The grant is for $393,928 over two years.

Worcester has been hit hard by opioid abuse recently, with Early saying he was aware of 89 overdose deaths in Worcester County this year. In 2013, when the spike in opioid abuse started to rise to the forefront of public attention, 39 of Worcester County's 60 communities had at least one overdose death.

“It couldn't be more timely,” Early said of the grant at a press conference at Worcester District Courthouse.

Early said one aspect of the meteoric rise in heroin use is the loss of the stigma attached to the drug, which used to depress its appeal to people who would not ordinarily use hard drugs.

“We're seeing soccer moms, we're seeing businessmen addicted to heroin,” Early said.

There are four discrete goals of the grant, although they all revolve around stopping drug use. The four goals are improving data quality and monitoring, reducing overdose deaths, reduce misuse of prescription opioids, and increase law enforcement capabilities.

More specifically, the grant will fund a partnership with the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and a partnership with UMass Medical Center to develop recommendations and strategies, as well as a public education campaign.

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