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Malden reports reduction of overdoses in the opioid crisis

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In the face of a nationwide opioid crisis, the City of Malden is grateful to announce that through the implementation of a range of innovative strategies that target prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery support, opioid overdoses have been reduced. Malden Board of Health Addiction Recovery Resource Specialist Paul Hammersley – working with various stakeholders, including local government, law enforcement agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations and concerned citizens – has developed a coordinated response that has resulted in Malden’s overdoses dropping by roughly 20 percent compared to 2022. In addition, the number of individuals seeking treatment and entering recovery has increased.

One program that has had a tremendous impact citywide is Malden Cares, a program developed by Hammersley and the Malden Board of Health in conjunction with nonprofit organization Malden Overcoming Addiction (MOA), of which Hammersley is the Board of Directors President. Malden Cares, which Hammersley helps oversee, according to the MOA website, provides Recovery Coaches who are on the street daily in targeted areas and directly engage with residents while providing recovery resources as well as assistance with food insecurity and homelessness.

Mayor Gary Christenson has established an Opioid Task Force that meets monthly; members include the Police Chief, Fire Chief, Malden’s Board of Health Director, Recovery Coaches and MOA members. The monthly meetings serve to analyze overdose patterns and deaths during the previous month, discuss outreach and determine where to focus efforts for the next month. The Malden Cares team then diverts to areas of the city where overdoses are more prevalent to work with residents and individuals to offer assistance and provide resources. The Opioid Task Force is currently working with MelroseWakefield Hospital with the goal of establishing recovery coaches in its emergency rooms to meet with patients who are transported by ambulance for overdoses.

In addition to raising awareness and educating the community about the risks associated with opioid misuse, the city has developed public education campaigns and “stop the stigma” events targeting the K-8 schools – emphasizing the danger of addiction that can result from any amount of drug use. Educating our youngsters before they enter high school is key to the effort, and the City of Malden currently partners with Cambridge Health Alliance to bring recovery coaches to the Teen Health Center at Malden High School.

Law enforcement agencies in Malden have adopted a compassionate and proactive approach, recognizing that individuals struggling with addiction need support rather than punishment. The City of Malden employs an officer who is diverted to calls to assist individuals who are drug impaired and works to encourage them to accept treatment rather than facing criminal charges. This approach not only has reduced the burden on the criminal justice system but helps individuals access the help they need.

Another way Malden is working to assist individuals in recovery is to understand the importance of long-term support for individuals in recovery. The Bridge Recovery Center, which is located at 239 Commercial St., is a peer-to-peer recovery support program where individuals with lived experience provide guidance, encouragement and practical assistance to those in recovery. The City of Malden is also working through Career Services Coordinator Kashawna Harling, who engages area businesses to facilitate employment opportunities, and trains individuals to assist in reducing barriers for people seeking to rebuild their lives.

Malden is committed to doing the hard work needed in the struggle against the opioid crisis. Through collaborative efforts, innovative strategies and a commitment to prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery, Malden hopes to continue its goal of reducing opioid abuse, saving lives, and fostering a resilient and supportive community. For more information on Malden Cares or recovery services available through the City of Malden, please contact Paul Hammersley at 781-838-2203.

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