In its fight against substance abuse, Reading is no longer going at it alone.
The Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCASA) continues to work with Medford, Malden, Melrose, Stoneham and Wakefield as it looks to address what the group calls “an epidemic” both locally and nationwide.
In Reading, opiates killed 20 people from 2003-2012, according to the coalition, and in the last seven years the Reading Fire Department responded to 162 overdose calls.
According to a press release, RCASA conducted an audit of 153 Reading Police Department cases from 2012 that involved substances. Of those cases, 24 percent involved opiates.
The group reports that heroin is a prevalent issue among those battling addiction. Of 180 residents admitted for state substance abuse treatment, 59 percent were seeking treatment for heroin and other opiate misuse.
The combination of Medford, Malden, Melrose, Stoneham and Wakefield and Reading is known as the Mystic Valley Public Health Coalition. That group developed a grant proposal to address what is a major public health issue impacting what the press release said totals 213,722.
Medford serves as the lead agent in the Mystic Valley Public Health Coalition, which was awared the Massachusetts Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative Grant. As a group, the coalition was awarded $300,000 total, with $100,000 allocated per year for substance abuse prevention efforts.
According to the group, the grant funds will be used to:
- Implement local policy, practice, systems and ecological change to prevent opioid misuse/abuse
- Prevent/reduce unintentional opiate-related deaths and non-fatal hospital events
- Increase both the number and capacity of municipalities across the state addressing these issues
“As a regional coalition, we are in the process of conducting an extensive needs assessment of our local conditions,” the press release said. “Second, we will work on building capacity to address this issue. Third, we will plan how we are going to address this issue. Fourth, we will implement the chosen strategies. Throughout our process, we will evaluate our progress and ensure that projects are sustainable and culuterally competent."
Specific to Reading, the RCASA staff will be conducting “key informant interviews and surveys” from January through March. To learn more, contact Erica McNamara, the RCASA director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (781) 942-6793.