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States Scramble to Respond to Heroin Epidemic


heroin arrest 6-17-14

State governors, legislatures and law enforcement across the country are scrambling to respond to the resurgence of heroin, USA Today reports.

“It’s really on the top of everyone’s radar from a public health perspective,” said Thomas MacLellan, Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety for the National Governors Association.

New heroin bills were introduced in at least 18 state legislatures, the article notes. The measures range from leniency for low-level heroin offenders, to permitting easier access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. Some states are considering tougher sentences for drug trafficking involving heroin.

Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts declared a public health emergency earlier this year, after deaths from heroin and opioid drugs rose more than 90 percent since 2002. The state will spend $10 million to create a court diversion system to provide treatment for non-violent drug offenders. Massachusetts will also devote an additional $20 million to the state’s drug treatment system.

Governor John Kasich of Ohio agreed to enroll his state in a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act in response to the heroin crisis, according to the newspaper. Kasich, a Republican, decided to accept federal assistance despite the political consequences, because of the drug’s toll on state residents.

In January, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said his state is suffering from a “full-blown heroin crisis.” In his State of the State Message, Governor Shumlin said he wants officials to respond to addiction as a chronic disease. He focused his entire speech on drug addiction and its consequences.

Advocates in a number of states are pushing for changes to laws to allow families to petition courts to intervene and order addiction and rehab treatment for loved ones addicted to heroin, even if they have no criminal record.

9 Responses to this article

  1. Suzcounselor / July 10, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I am in agreement that our system is not effective. 20 years ago, getting into an inpatient treatment center & remaining there because your insurance paid for at least 30 days-and some insurances, more-was very helpful to the addicted individual. As a licensed clinical alcohol & drug counselor, I fight the fight daily with the managed care organizations (ins. co.) for more authorization to keep my clients in the outpatient clinic longer or to allow the input. clients more time inpatient. These MCO’s dictate the kind of treatment they allow, the length of time the client can attend-depute how poorly they may be doing, and where the client can get help. The President, Senate, & Congress need t work to get the MCO’s to pay for longer treatment episodes because counseling centers’ hands are tied. We KNOW treatment works, the problem is, clients can’t stay in their programs long enough to detox & allow their brains to function without drugs. Receiving education about drugs is fine, but time is the key factor that will make a HUGE difference. Sending a client inpatient for 9 days doesn’t do shit when they have been using for many years! It is a waste of money because it’s a half-assed way to try to recover. Blame the MCO’s for failure. In most cases, being in treatment 28 days or more is a thing of the past. And now, everyone sees this. And now addicts are dying because MCO’s are refusing to pay. Those that do so, leave the client or their family with HUGE debt. We, the people, need to stop sending money out of this country & help all of our own people (not just those whom qualify for entitlements) because at the rate it’s going, as a nation we are at risk of losing a whole generation.

  2. Joanne / July 10, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I am amazed that the oldest and most successful treatment for opioid addiction, Methadone Maintenance Therapy is NEVER brought up at any of the speeches given by Politicians, Judges, or at town hall meetings, press conferences….. nothings is said about it’s success rate for opioid dependance. Even with all the deaths, there is still a stigma attached to methadone. A stigma that is re-enforced by people that lack a clinical background and have absolutely no knowledge or experience with MMT. I have seen Judges, probation officers, public defenders, and social workers who do not posses any experience tell people who have been abstinent for over a year to get off of methadone. That irresponsible decision making that unqualified individuals try to enforce without considering the consequences or outcome for addicts, is beyond my comprehension. Learn more about something before you pass down life changing judgements on those who depend on it.

    I have also witnessed people’s judgements and opinions change once someone they love has been helped to live a normal life through MMT. I have also seen some in law enforcement, probation officers, and medical professionals see the value in MMT after meeting MMT patients and seeing how their lives have improved.

    Let’s face it, the problem is here. I agree prevention in early childhood development would be very beneficial, but we have generations that did not get that knowledge and they are overdosing at an alarming rate.

    Research the statistics on MMT. I know hundreds that are grateful that MMT saved their lives.

  3. Hannah / July 9, 2014 at 10:51 am

    My 26 year old sister recently passed away from a heroin overdose. I am glad that state governments are starting to realize that something needs to be done. I am fully aware that if a person wants to do drug they will do them, but the process of getting help for those people when they realize they don’t want to continue with the drugs is the MAJOR problem. I can not even begin to explain the difficulties we faced trying to find a place for treatment, affording treatment, and the laws that surround this issue. The heroin problem effects more people than one could ever imagine, and unless you have been threw it you have no idea what is involved.

  4. errol hooker / June 20, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Although all of the comments have valid points you all must remember this as long as people want drugs there will be drugs here in the US. And the only real way to stop drugs altogether is to take the profit out of the sale of any and all drugs, but let us be real for real the biggest DRUG DEALERS are the legal Drug Co. and their prescription drugs. And that is truth. There are also a lot of powerful people behind the scene of the illegal drug trade and they make too much money to care.

    • JON / June 23, 2014 at 8:17 am

      I would agree whole heartily with statements about treatment if I were unaware of the counseling option carnage being perpetrated on our schools. Early prevention and intervention are rapidly diminishing and counseling options are disappearing while high stakes testing proliferate. We are piling stress and tension on our kids at a rate higher than ever before. We have helicopter parents, lawn mower parents and the “I don’t want you to be with those kids” “syndrome escalating. We increase the work load and information load while at the same time we do not address the social problems we see at record levels in society.
      We were a group in the state of New Jersey at one point numbering 500 plus, now we are less than 300. Guess we feel like the 300 Spartans left to defend Greece. We are left to defend New Jersey from addiction and intervene with the kids who are living with personal and family mental health issues and substance problems. But we need help. Politics seems to be loaded with sound bites about achievement data and lip service about student needs, which does not help the students with mental health and substance abuse issues. We need support in the legislature where an Assembly and a Senate bill sit stalled due to the political climate and the reticence to spend any money on our children unless it benefits corporate America or some ones political agenda.
      We are in a battle educationally with, well, I don’t know who but the media seems to have someone in mind, somewhere in the world, not sure who though. We seem to be Sacrificing our children’s mental health for educational data collection. Testing services and charter programs seem to be financially profitable without providing substantial growth in positive data regarding educational advancement.
      There is an old statement that kindergarten and first grade teachers can identify the children who will have problems, be problems, and need support in those early years. Yet we continue to wait until it becomes a crisis to deal with it. John Douglas from the FBI Behavioral crimes unit wrote in order to improve society’s outcomes, provide intervention and counseling early. We are not doing that. We find reasons not too, and create another high stakes test instead. Admittedly there is more profit for someone in that.
      Our need to fulfill the American dream is sabotaging that same dream. We worry about buying a million dollar home but do not want to pay the taxes. This causes us to neglect our schools and attack the people in them who are supporting and educating our children. We seem to forget we all went to school. Our advanced ability to utilize mathematics, reason and communicate, are not innate, they were taught to us. Attending school once in our lives breeds one thing. Attendance makes us believe we are all experts on education. . If you listen to the politicians we all received a “bad” education and the system needs improvement. If it were that bad, they received that same “bad” education, we need to listen to the people who received the “good “ version. Someone in the world where we compare or kids who get that top rating (not too many inventors, corporate giants, innovators, coming out of these pockets of educated “high” achievers).
      We need our politicians to listen to us to support our kids and pass Bills like S1694 and A2260 in New Jersey. We also need media champions like APP to support us in this herculean task. More information can be found at

    • Clinton / June 23, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      Amen! Check out L.E.A.P. – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Didn’t work before; isn’t working now.

  5. Brenda / June 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Our nation is already off the charts in terms of drug use from pills, both prescription and illegally bought and sold. This is only the beginning of the downfall of the children in our nation. There are parents who approve the use of marijuana openly in their homes. THEY, themselves don’t even realized they are addicted to marijuana among other drugs. Any opiate or drug that induces a state of no motivation and alters the mind and destroys the body should be illegal. China did it years ago when they made it illegal to grow, process, use or sell heroin. They kicked them all out of their country, The positive change in their society was remarkable. I am not a communist, just making a point that something that ruined their society was eliminated and they have no addicts or rehabilitation institutes to waste government money on. Most of those who have been in rehabilitation facilities here in the state go right back out to the streets to get high the minute they are released. These programs do not work for the majority of addicts, especially opiate addicts. Please do not legalize marijuana or any mind altering drug. Our society will never be successful if these laws are passed. Punishment and deportation s the only solution to this problem. The government contributed to this problem – now they are backed into a corner because drug abuse has spread from the inner cities to the suburbs and is worst that ever. Completely lost control over who and what they intended access to and for. They gained from allowing certain drugs into our country and it backfired. That’s how I see it. Very sad.

  6. Dave Finch / June 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    While it is encouraging that the politicians are increasingly calling for treatment rather than punishment, the continuing mindset is that forced abstinence by adult drug users is the best or only way to solve the problem. Toleration of drug use coupled with counseling and controls that keep drugs out of the hands of minors would be a far more effective approach both to destroy the black market in drugs and to foster rehab among addicts.

    • Ivy Carpenter / June 20, 2014 at 7:39 am

      While forced abstinence in a unreal world would be lovely, it just doesn’t happen, until you have a child addicted to heroin and you see how they have no control, the drug controls everything, abstinence is just unrealistic. They need help, they have no control and their minds are not ok. The only thing they can concentrate on is their fix and getting it quickly, families need to be able to force their family member into rehabilitation and the laws need to be changed so that we can do this. Short term treatment does not work on a heroin addict, it must be at least a year giving them time and clarity before they go back out into the world and have to deal with it again.

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