So what does it take? What does it take to stop a death spiral that seems to be gaining, not losing, steam.
That was the question
The conversation dredged up everything from the lack of front-line doctors, nurses and therapists to treat addiction, the lack of long-term treatment beds, and the need to better market recovery services, to the simple fact that more potent drugs are hitting the streets and killing people before anyone has time to save them.
"When you peel back the layers, it just gets worse and worse," said Legislator
No one denied that. In the first 109 days of this year, the county's Medical Examiner's Office has recorded 129 suspected or confirmed opioid-related deaths.
"There are more people engaged in treatment today than there were a year ago," she said. "If we can keep people alive long enough, then there's every chance to believe they will go into recovery and be equally functioning members of society."
That didn't seem to cheer up many legislators.
The county lawmakers expressed particular concern that
Despite the investment in the hotline, legislators complained the phone line was only getting about seven calls a day.
"If the money isn't being spent properly, if it isn't being spent in places that are actually having an effect on a problem that continues to grow, what can we do?" said Majority Leader
Health officials responded that since the hotline went up in August, addiction counselors have fielded 1,903 calls. They compared that figure to
They also stated that greater efforts were being made to market the hotline phone number, which is also being given out on cards by first responders. Legislators recommended that ads for the hotline should be placed at bus stops, community centers and
Other legislators said they had no opposition to earmarking more money to fight the problem, but they want to know that the money is going to where it could best be used. Among the suggestions:
* Extending the hours that drug treatment counselors are available to meet with and screen addicts who call the addiction hotline. Currently, hours are limited to
* Starting a college loan forgiveness program for doctors, nurses and therapists who finish college and commit to doing front-line addiction recovery work that is "exhausting, frustrating, sad and hard," said Constantino.
* Establishing a 24-hour help center where addicts can come for immediate help and screening
Burke raised concerns that the Legislature will be slow to act while spending time deciding what best practices are worth the money.
"There should be some sense of urgency," he said. "People are dying."
"I do think there's a sense of urgency," responded Legislator
Rinaldo, however, said everyone should recognize that whatever steps they take to address the problem, no true solutions will be created overnight.
"This is a 10-year struggle we're going to be in," he said. "This is a 10-year plan we should have. We're in a long struggle here, and there are no easy answers."
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