Bill grew up in a hardworking middle class family in Massachusetts. His parents provided for his every need and enrolled him in private school where he was a successful athlete and on the honor roll.
At a friend’s house during his freshman year in high school, he and his friends stole Percocet, a powerful pain medication from his friend’s parent’s medicine cabinet.
Within in three months, he was addicted and taking painkillers on a daily basis. He started buying the powerful painkiller Oxycotin on the street and stealing money from his parents. He stopped playing sports and barely graduated high school. Within a year of graduating from high school, he was sniffing heroin and entered his first rehab. Over the next several years his addiction worsened; he eventually began injecting heroin and contracted Hepatitis C as a result. He has spent the last few years bouncing from jail to rehabilitation facilities.
Sadly, this story is a composite of thousands of true stories around our Commonwealth.
For years, Massachusetts has struggled with the growing problem of substance abuse. Illicit drugs such as heroin and painkillers have brought devastation to our families, communities and individual lives. It is time that we put an end to the spread of substance abuse and it starts by how we treat it.
In Massachusetts, we currently treat substance abuse as a criminal issue. This will stop in my administration. We need to start to treat substance abuse as a public health issue. When we focus on addiction and substance abuse as a disease, we can start to lay the foundation to stop it from spreading, just like halting the spread of a virus.
Our state leads the nation in healthcare services and research, and yet we have the 6th highest rate in the United States of drug users under the age of 18. Data suggests that as many as 10% of our children in Massachusetts are using illicit drugs.
This past week, I proposed creating an Office of Recovery. We need an office that is solely designated to coordinating with local detox and rehabilitation facilities so every person can easily find immediate treatment.
As Governor, I will highlight the issue of substance abuse and addiction in our Commonwealth. I will work to lessen the stigma of this illness and open our minds to it as a health problem. Only then will widespread education and other measures be effective and only then will many of our fellow citizens who suffer from addiction and drug abuse seek and obtain the treatment they need.
We as a Commonwealth need to be proactive, not reactive. It is a moral and economic imperative that Massachusetts leads the way on an Office of Recovery. As Governor, I will lead our efforts to removing the stigma of substance abuse and together we will stop this epidemic and keep Bill and tens of thousands of our children out of jail, rehab or the morgue.
Joe Avellone is a Democrat running for Governor of Massachusetts. Joe has served in various management leadership roles throughout his distinguished private and public sector career, including surgeon, entrepreneur, healthcare executive, Selectman and Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves.