Gov. Baker: State a Model on Opioid Fight; Parents Shape His Politics

Merrimack Valley Chamber President Joseph J. Bevilacqua, left, with Gov. Charlie Baker and developer Salvatore N. Lupoli in 2017. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce President Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Gov. Charlie Baker and Chamber Chairman Salvatore N. Lupoli. (WHAV News photograph.)

The increased use of the antidote Narcan has reduced drug deaths even as overdoses climbed, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told attendees to the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner Wednesday night in Haverhill.

Baker spent the bulk of his talk discussing the opioid epidemic, but also addressed improvements at the state’s Department of Children and Families, compacts with local governments and investments in education and housing. He said his political priorities are the result of having a “liberal Democrat” mother and Republican father. The combination, Baker joked, often discouraged dinner guests.

“My dinner table when I grew up as a kid was a laser light show of points of view. I had a lot of friends who literally would not come to our house for dinner because they were afraid,” he said.

Baker said his parents were married 62 years and he “learned a lot listening to both of them.”

The governor said his opioid program is the country’s most comprehensive. It has been copied by 46 other governors and consists of prevention education, intervention treatment and recovery. As a result, the state has increased spending 50 percent on treatment and recovery.

“We’re the only state in the country where you can’t graduate from medical school, dental school, nursing school or pharmacy school without taking and passing a course in opioid therapy and pain management. We are the only state in the country where prescribers can’t get relicensed without taking and passing a course in opioid therapy and pain management. We’re the only state in the country—you getting the message here—that’s actually created a pretty comprehensive program for athletes and coaches and parents when it comes to teaching them the pros and the cons associated with pain medication.”

After 15 years of double digit increases, Baker said, during the first six months of the year, drug overdose deaths went down and opioid pain prescriptions went down. He acknowledged overdoes still increased but the more liberal use of Narcan saved lives. He added, deaths from heroin alone went down a lot, but the widespread introduction of fentanyl has led to “a whole new set of challenges.”  Not one legislator voted against it the bill, Baker said.

“This shouldn’t be partisan. Who doesn’t want to figure out a way to deal with the biggest addiction crisis of our time? Who doesn’t want to come up with a plan and a program to prevent this from happening to people on the front end and do more to come up with best practice approaches.”

Baker also talked about improvements his administration has made at the state Department of Children and Families. The state agency was widely criticized in 2015 when it was determined it prematurely closed the case of 2-year-old Bella Bond who would be murdered by her mother’s boyfriend.

The governor said the agency now has manageable caseloads for social workers, and new rules for supervisory and investigative work and in-home service policies. He said the reforms were accomplished while working with members of the Service Employees International Union.

He took the time to plug his wife, Lauren’s Wonderfund charity. The group provides extra support for foster kids by helping to pay for after school sports fees, summer camps, Christmas presents and birthday gifts.

3 thoughts on “Gov. Baker: State a Model on Opioid Fight; Parents Shape His Politics

  1. It would have been more relevant had the Governor presented statistics specifically related to the Merrimack Valley. I doubt seriously that the numbers in Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill mirror what is happening statewide. When you’re a RINO governor speaking in a room full of brain dead liberal democrats you can’t tell the truth….there are a lot of votes and campaign contributions in that room.
    You can’t talk honestly about the drug problem in the Merrimack Valley without tying it to the illegal invader issue, yet liberal democrats NEVER tie the two together. Where are the drugs coming from? Who’s selling them? How many gangs are there building distribution networks? What are the drug arrest statistics year over year?
    In Andy Vargas, Haverhill has a want-to-be state representative who not only supports the criminal illegals bringing the drugs to the city, but he put lives at risk when he interfered with Federal law enforcement officials in the city fighting the drug issue. Yet liberals who support him seem to have no problem with him doing those things. That’s insanity!

    • Probably the reason why The Boston Police report on the drug trade, with Dominicans using stolen PR I.D.’s running the nearly the entire drug trade in MA was BURIED. Local and state politicians were AWOL on the issue and the report because it made the region look bad. While I don’t think the import of drugs can, or even want to be stopped, it’s simply another example of political hypocrisy. You’re bleeding out, but here’s a band aid. Too bad if you or someone you love is a made a victim because of this ideology and political narrative.

      • ” or even want to be stopped…”
        I agree completely. Think of the literally tens of thousands of jobs and careers tied directly to the “War Against Drugs”. Federal, state and local police, medical industry professionals, treatment councilors, EMTs, etc. Your band aid analogy is a good one.