For Immediate Release - September 16, 2013

Patrick Administration Announces Latest Milestone in Fight against Opiate Overdose Deaths in Massachusetts

2,000th opiate overdose reversal announced due to innovative naloxone program

BOSTON — Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz today announced the Patrick Administration’s Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution Program has reported its 2,000th overdose reversal in six years of operation.

“Massachusetts is a national leader in combating substance abuse and preventing overdoses, thanks to innovative programs like this one,” said Secretary Polanowicz. “Not only are we saving lives across the Commonwealth, we are also providing resources to help individuals access treatment and long-term supports to help them combat their addictions.”

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, blocks the effects of opioids such as heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, codeine and methadone. As part of the overdose prevention program, staff distribute naloxone nasal spray kits and provide training to opioid users and trusted people in their lives, such as family, friends and human services providers. The training helps individuals recognize and respond to an overdose by calling 9-1-1, performing rescue breathing and administering naloxone nasal spray. The programs also offer referrals to treatment and long-term supports.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) has operated the overdose prevention program since 2007, as part of a multi-faceted approach to overdose prevention, including increased access to opiate treatment, funding for municipalities to reduce overdoses at the community level and educational awareness programs.

Training and naloxone nasal spray kits are available at sites located in 15 Massachusetts cities, all with high overdose rates: Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Fall River, Holyoke, Hyannis, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Northampton, Provincetown, Quincy, Springfield and Worcester.

Secretary Polanowicz joined DPH officials to make the announcement at the State House, along with Lieutenant Detective Patrick Glynn of the Quincy Police Department and Joanne Peterson, founder of Learn to Cope, a DPH-sponsored support group for parents and family members living with a loved one addicted to opioids. Lt. Det. Glynn and Ms. Peterson shared their experiences with the OEND program and the effect it has had on their communities.

The overdose prevention program is a collaboration between the DPH Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, the Bureau of Infectious Disease Office of HIV/AIDS and community-based providers.

“As we recognize 2,000 reversals, we must also acknowledge the significant need still present in the Commonwealth,” said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, R.N. “Opioid overdose continues to represent a considerable public health crisis, which is why the Department is committed to providing effective substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery supports involving a broad range of stakeholders and approaches.”

“I commend the Department of Public Health for its smart and effective use of Narcan to combat drug overdoses,” said Senator Joan Lovely. “The Commonwealth stands out as a leader with this life-saving program.”

“We are lucky to have Narcan in our arsenal of tools used to save lives and fight drug addiction,” said Representative Liz Malia. “I am impressed with the widespread use of Narcan and firmly believe education on how to effectively use it will help us in our journey to fight opioid abuse in the Commonwealth.”

For more information on the OEND program, and other ways that DPH is working with communities across Massachusetts to reduce opioid overdoses, visit the Opioid Overdose Prevention website.

For a referral to treatment please go to or call 800-327-5050.

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