State and Federal officials discuss “drug epidemic” in Taunton

By: Samantha Lavien

Twitter: @samanthalavien

Senator Ed Markey joined forces with the White House's Drug Czar to address a crowd in Taunton on Monday about the drastic increase in heroin and other prescription drug overdoses this year.

Nearly 70 overdoses have been reported  in 2014 and there have been five deaths. In Massachusetts 30 have died from overdoses so far this year.

“Some people call heroin and prescription drug abuse the silent killer, but we can no longer be silent. We must face the reality,” said Markey.

The Senator presented a three prong approach to fight the problem; it includes: expanding the availability of overdose antidotes like Narcan, expanding access to treatments that work and modernizing treatment.

“After cancer and heart disease this is now the number one killer in the United States,” said Markey.

Taunton officials say the numbers this year are way higher than usual.

“Compared to last year at the same time the numbers are just unbelievable,” said Police Chief Edward Walsh.

Many parents attending Monday's meeting say they want to raise awareness about the growing problem.

“There's a whole stigma that goes with it and everyone thinks that a drug addict is a street junky that it is your national honor society student, your varsity athlete it is the kid next door,” said Lori Gonsalves whose son suffered brain damage and is now legally blind after overdosing from heroin.

“I don't want another mother to go through this. When a person's child dies.. you say I can only imagine your pain, you are so far off, you could never imagine the pain of burying your child,” said Susan Cyr whose son died of a Heroin overdose in July.

Senator Markey plans to introduce an opiate overdose reduction act to create a federal Good Samaritan provision to protect people who administer Narcan in an emergency situation from federal liability.

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