SALEM — Hundreds of thousands of people visit Salem every October. But one visitor attracted more attention than most on Monday.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren came to Salem to discuss the opioid crisis with Mayor Kim Driscoll and a table full of local people who are trying to fight a problem plaguing communities everywhere.
Warren stopped by the fire station on Lafayette Street to watch a demonstration by Salem firefighters of how they administer the lifesaving drug Narcan to someone in the midst of an overdose. That was followed by a roundtable discussion of how Salem is dealing with the opioid crisis, with Warren asking what government can do to help them.
Driscoll told Warren that 192 people had suffered an overdose in Salem so far in 2017, and 19 of them had died. Those numbers were up slightly from 2016, she said.
"I recognize that if you can get more resources, you can save more people," Warren told the group, which included first responders, medical people and outreach workers.
Driscoll said Salem was one of the first communities on the North Shore to train police and firefighters to use Narcan. The city also has a "knock-and-talk" program in which a police officer and an outreach worker visit the homes of overdose victims within 24 hours.
One of those outreach workers, Denny DesRosiers, said he works part time on Mondays and Fridays. Driscoll told Warren it would be great to have the funding to make him full time.
Warren, a Democrat, said she is glad President Trump last week declared the opioid crisis a national emergency.
"But there was one gaping hole in that announcement," she said. "He made no commitment to provide any additional federal dollars that states like Massachusetts need to be able to fight this epidemic head-on."
Warren said she is also concerned with the proposed tax bill from Republicans that includes big cuts in Medicaid, the government insurance that covers many people with addictions.
"Right now the proposal is a cut of a half a trillion dollars to Medicaid, as well as cuts to Medicare," Warren told the group. "The consequences of that would be felt by everyone you touch and by all the families that are trying to cope with this problem."
State Rep. Paul Tucker of Salem, the city's former police chief, said he successfully sponsored a bill two years ago that strengthened punishments for selling fentanyl, a potent drug that increased the rate of overdose deaths. Now he has filed another bill that would expand the definition of fentanyl to include carfentanyl, an even stronger version of the drug.
"It seems that every time that we start to get a handle on it, something else comes along that is much stronger and much worse," he said.
State Sen. Joan Lovely of Salem told a story of a man who collapsed from an overdose in the next aisle over from her one day in Market Basket and was revived with Narcan. Lovely said she sought training on how to use Narcan, and pulled out a prescription for it that she now carries with her.
"In case I see someone, now I know what to do," she said.
Warren's visit drew media coverage from Boston TV stations, but not for the discussion on opioids. After the panel discussion, Warren was asked about the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Warren said that Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, must be allowed to continue his investigation without interference from the White House.
"This is not a good day for the White House," she said of Manafort's indictment.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.