SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 3, 2014

Avellone: Removing the stigma of substance abuse

Joe Avellone
The Salem News

---- — For years, Massachusetts has struggled with the growing problem of substance abuse. Illicit drugs such as heroin and painkillers have brought devastation to our families, communities and individual lives. It is time that we put an end to the spread of substance abuse, and it starts by how we treat it.

In Massachusetts, we currently treat substance abuse as a criminal issue. This will stop in my administration. We need to start to treat substance abuse as a public-health issue.

Our state leads the nation in healthcare services and research, and yet, we have the sixth-highest rate in the United States of drug users under the age of 18. Data suggests that as many as 10 percent of our children in Massachusetts are using illicit drugs.

This past week, I proposed creating an Office of Recovery. We need an office that is solely designated to coordinating with local detox and rehabilitation facilities so every person can easily find immediate treatment.

As governor, I will highlight the issue of substance abuse and addiction in our commonwealth. I will work to lessen the stigma of this illness and open our minds to it as a health problem. Only then will widespread education and other measures be effective, and only then will many of our fellow citizens who suffer from addiction and drug abuse seek and obtain the treatment they need.

We as a commonwealth need to be proactive, not reactive. As governor, I will lead our efforts to removing the stigma of substance abuse, and together, we will stop this epidemic and keep tens of thousands of our children out of jail, rehab or the morgue.

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Joe Avellone is a Democrat running for governor of Massachusetts.