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City health officials map out plan to combat opioid crisis

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By Barbara Taormina


Public Health Director Lauren Buck, Carrie-Ann Salemme and Nicole Palermo from the city’s Substance Use Disorder and Homeless Initiative SUDHI office were at the Board of Health meeting last week for the first of several planned presentations of the funding from the huge statewide opioid settlement that’s coming to Revere and the way the city intends to use the money.


Buck began with what she called a brief overview of what the opioid crisis looks like in Revere. In 2020 there were 21 overdose deaths, in 2021, 25 deaths and in 2022, 30 Revere residents died from overdoses. The statistics from last year aren’t available yet but Buck said police data showed 123 overdoses, 17 of which were fatal.


Massachusetts brought a series of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors for deceptive business practices and advertising that failed to inform the public of the risks of opioid use. Companies, such as Johnson, CVS, Walmart and Walgreen’s were held accountable for fueling the opioid epidemic. The lawsuits ended in settlements expected to bring about $1 billion to Massachusetts over the next 18 years.


The state will retain 60 percent of the settlement funds for its Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund. The remaining 40 percent of the settlement funds will be divided among the state’s cities and towns with a total of $432,490 coming to Revere.


Buck explained that the settlement funding comes with requirements of needs that must be covered. Treatment and support for those in treatment and recovery are at the top of the list. Settlement funds also need to provide connections to care, harm reduction, support for those who are criminally involved, support for pregnant women and parents, babies with neonatal abstinence and prevention.


Salemme and Palermo told the board that SUDHI has used roughly $18,000 of settlement funds. Just over $8,000 was used for staff salaries and benefits, while about $10,000 was spent on program needs such as survey and speaker costs, with $6,500 going toward Naloxone boxes.


The Opioid abatement team will install emergency boxes with doses of Narcan, a lifesaving medication that reverses the effects of an overdose and decreases the chance of death. Boxes will be placed outdoors, on telephone poles or other prominent spots. There will also be Naloxone boxes placed in businesses that can provide access in case of emergencies.


Palermo explained the boxes were part of harm reduction, and will potentially prevent the worst outcome from overdoses.

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