For Immediate Release - April 29, 2016

First Champion in the #StateWithoutStigMA Campaign Recognized by Governor Baker and Secretary Sudders

BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker and Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Marylou Sudders, recognized Melissa O’Mara of Malden as the first Champion in the #StateWithoutStigMA campaign. O’Mara was chosen from 47 nominations submitted since the campaign launched last fall when the Baker-Polito Administration called on people to share the stories of Champions who have worked to eradicate stigma and push for treatment in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic that is killing nearly four people a day in the state.

“When I meet individuals who have recovered from this disease, I am reminded that this epidemic knows no boundaries. It can be a daughter or sister, neighbor or co-worker who falls prey to the cycle of addiction,” said Governor Baker. “I applaud Melissa and the thousands of other Champions across the state who fight for recovery every day of their lives.”

The Administration has taken an active role in fighting the deadly heroin epidemic. Last month the Governor signed historic legislation into law aimed at stopping the cycle of addiction. Among the key provisions contained in the law include limiting an opioid prescription to a 7-day supply for a first time adult prescriptions and a 7-day limit on every opiate prescription for minors, with certain exceptions; and targeted funds to help combat the epidemic, allocating more than $250 million to date for prevention, education, treatment and recovery.

O’Mara has been in long-term recovery since 2011. She started drinking in middle school and graduated to using drugs in high school. But by the age of 17, O’Mara was injecting heroin. Now, in her second year of law school at New England Law Boston, she continues to advocate and spread awareness about the disease of addiction and the importance of seeking treatment.

"Meeting the Governor and Secretary Sudders as a 23-year-old law student in long-term recovery from heroin and other drugs and alcohol, is an example of what can happen in the life of someone with a substance use disorder when they have a support system coupled with a continuum of care,” said O’Mara who was given a citation by Governor Baker. “This opportunity reminds me why I choose a life of recovery and why I continue to fight for others who are not bad people, but sick people who need chance after chance to get better just like I did.”

“The opioid epidemic is impacting every community in Massachusetts and continues to devastate families. Bending the trend on this disease requires public education and Melissa is a powerful advocate for how there is hope for people who are suffering from substance misuse disorder,” said Secretary Sudders. “Getting people into treatment earlier requires we remove any shame or stigma from this disease in order to save lives.”

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services will continue to select Champions to feature on its #StateWithoutStigMA website.