Published in the July 20, 2015 edition

MEDFORD — Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan and State Senator Jason Lewis (D- Winchester), in partnership with Hallmark Health System, held the first meeting of the Eastern Middlesex Opioid Task Force Thursday, July 16, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

The Opioid Task Force will focus on combating the increase in drug overdoses in the eastern region of Middlesex County, serving the communities of Malden, Medford, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham and Wakefield. Twenty percent of the overdose deaths in Middlesex County in 2015 occurred in these communities, with 80 percent of those deaths caused by heroin.

“As District Attorney, I have seen first-hand the devastating impact of the opioid crisis,” said District Attorney Marian Ryan. “We have focused our efforts on taking a multi-pronged approach — one that encompasses education, prevention, intervention, treatment and the prosecution of individuals who profit from those in the throes of addiction. By launching the Eastern Middlesex Opioid Task Force, we are continuing our work of building stronger communities through promoting cross-sector, interdisciplinary solutions to address critical matters of public health and public safety.”

As District Attorney, Marian Ryan has worked to combat the opioid epidemic by:

• Establishing the Lowell Opioid Task Force with State Senator Eileen Donoghue in 2012;

• Advocating for the opening of a Drug Court in Lowell;

• Hosting training seminars for police, firefighters and EMTs on how to administer Narcan;

• Providing cities and towns with approximately 600 doses of Narcan, funded entirely through drug forfeiture revenue collected by the DA’s Office;

• Hosting training for doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers on how to identify drug seeking indicators and how to better access and manage pain;

• Filing legislation that would limit opiate prescriptions from an Emergency Department or walk-in clinic to a 72 hour supply;

• Filing legislation to regulate a new synthetic chemical drug, NBOIMe – often referred to as “N-bomb.” N-bomb is illegal under federal drug laws but not yet classified as a controlled substance in Massachusetts;

• Filing legislation that creates a charging option for individuals whose drug distribution activities cause the death of another person and,

• Providing cities and towns with drug collection boxes for the public to safely dispose of unused or expired medicines;

“The Opioid Task Force promises to do the critically important work of bringing together a broad network of stakeholders from across our communities to thoughtfully and comprehensively address challenges we face in tackling addiction and abuse,” said Senator Lewis. “I commend District Attorney Ryan for her leadership in this effort and I thank the many participants, representing a wide array of backgrounds, for their commitment and insight.”

“We are proud to be working in partnership with the Eastern Middlesex Opioid Task Force,” Alan Macdonald, president and CEO of Hallmark Health System added. “For nearly five years, Hallmark Health System has been working closely with our communities to address the growing opioid epidemic. Our clinicians see the devastating effects of opioid addiction every day. Building a multidisciplinary task force such as this to address this epidemic in our communities is an important and necessary step.”

Members of the of the Eastern Middlesex Opioid Task Force include first responders, police and fire officials, municipal health workers, doctors, nurses, social workers, substance abuse counselors, community-based advocates and probation officers. In addition to District Attorney Ryan and Senator Lewis, the Task Force is comprised of numerous elected officials, public administrators and health care executives, including: U.S. Representative Katherine Clark; State Representative Paul Brodeur; State Representative Michael Day; State Representative Paul Donato; Sheriff Peter Koutoujian; Medford City Councilor Paul Camusso; Alan Macdonald, president and CEO, Hallmark Health System; Gerald MacKillop Jr., director of community relations, Lahey Health; Dr. Brian O’Connor, Middlesex Recovery, P.C.; Dr. Francis A. Carmichael, F.A. Carmichael Dentistry, Inc.; Richard Raymond, CEO, Armstrong Ambulance Service; Ronald Quaranto, COO, Cataldo Ambulance Service; Josh Ramos, clinical director, Action Ambulance Service.

Chief James Cormier, Reading Police Department; Chief Michael Lyle, Melrose Police Department; Chief Rick Smith, Wakefield Police Department; Chief Michael Murphy, North Reading Police Department; Chief James McIntyre, Stoneham Police Department; Chief Kevin Molis, Malden Police Department; Chief Leo Sacco, Medford Police Department; Chief Gregory Burns, Reading Fire Department; Chief John “Jack” Colangeli, Malden Fire Department.

Middlesex County is the most-populous county in Massachusetts and one of the most-populous counties in the country with 54 towns and cities comprising over one quarter of the population of Massachusetts. The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has offices throughout the county, including in Ayer, Cambridge, Concord, Framingham, Lowell, Malden, Marlborough, Newton, Somerville, Waltham and Woburn.