Death moves into the neighborhood

Drug abuse has come out of the shadows. No longer is it just the junkie in the back alley that gets our sympathy but little else for treatment. It’s now in Middle America’s backyards and bedrooms and it’s forcing everyone – politicians and policymakers – to confront the issue head-on.

The most recent eye-opener, though it shouldn’t come as a surprise, was in Acushnet where police were summoned on Monday for opioid overdoses at two separate homes. One was for a 14-year-old and the other a 65-year-old woman. A teen of middle-school age and a senior citizen. It makes it easy to pinpoint who the drug epidemic affects – everybody.

One of the reasons cancer fundraisers have been successful is because everyone is touched by the disease. Drug abuse, and its deadly endgame of overdose, is moving into that realm and with its mainstream Main Street appearance, it is becoming an issue that transcends politics, policy, race, and income.

At a forum in New Hampshire this week, former Florida governor Jeb Bush bared his soul about his daughter’s battle with drug addiction and his fears over her fate.

“What I learned was that the pain that you feel when you have a loved one who has addiction challenges, and kind of spirals out of control, is something that is shared with a whole lot of people,” Bush told the forum that was attended by four other Republican candidates.

Closer to home, Beth Bresnahan, CEO of the Lynn Daily Item, wrote about the increasing number of names she sees in her paper’s obituaries of people she knows who have died from drug abuse, but says nonetheless it was a call from her uncle during the holidays that opened her eyes.

“My cousin Joe, eight years my junior and my aunt and uncle’s only son, was found alone in his Peabody apartment a few hours earlier,” Bresnahan writes. “State Police on the scene said he had likely died even hours before that. He was just 31.”

Bresnahan’s cousin was one of 755 suspected drug overdose deaths investigated by State Police in 2015. The average age of the victim was 36. And those numbers do not include Boston, Springfield, Worcester, or Pittsfield, where police do their own death investigations and where the numbers of drug overdoses are much higher.

Gov. Charlie Baker has made opioid abuse and addiction a central priority of his administration in his first year, forming a task force and pledging more than $30 million for treatment, as well as filing a bill that includes a controversial provision allowing hospitals to retain addicts involuntarily. When he unveiled his proposal in June, Baker said he, like everyone else, had a family member who was felled to addiction.

“I didn’t originally run for governor to fight opioid addiction, but simply put, it was everywhere I went,” Baker said at the time. “I can’t remember the last time I was in a room of more than 20 people where someone didn’t have a story that directly connected them to this crisis.”

This week, Baker’s administration released $700,000 in grants to 40 “hot spot” communities suffering from the worst of drug overdose rates. The money is intended to help them purchase the drug naloxone, known better by its brand name of Narcan, which reverses the effects of overdoses and can cheat death when administered at the outset.

But with the cost of the drug ranging from $33 to $66 a dose, much more is going to be needed. Last month, the state opened up its drug-purchasing trust fund to communities to allow them to buy naloxone at a discounted rate of $20 per dose.

After that, it’s a matter of getting the drug to those places where it’s most needed. According to the Department of Public Health, 133 of the state’s 244 public school districts carry naloxone or plan to carry it by the end of the school year, more than double the previous school year. It’s a decision supported by the National Association of School Nurses, though not one supported by all educators.

“We’re not stocking Narcan at the moment,” Norwood Superintendent James Hayden said in December. “Our police and fire departments have it, and can be in our schools within one to two minutes.”

Hopefully, there’s a minute or two to spare.

–JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

An Eagle-Tribune editorial praises the fiscal discipline of Gov. Charlie Baker .

The House voted unanimously to repeal a state law that imposed an automatic revocation of the driver’s license of anyone convicted of a drug-related crime. (Boston Globe) CommonWealth spotlighted the law, which reform advocates pushed to repeal, in this feature story last year.

Boston police commissioner William Evans and state officials are pushing for new state law that would require clear markings on imitation firearms. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Globe hits Boston Mayor Marty Walsh with a one-two punch, as a newspaper editorial and columnist Yvonne Abraham both lay into him for the cronyism illustrated by a recent Globe story on a former law partner of Walsh pal and city corporation counsel Gene O’Flaherty who suddenly seems to have a lot of doors opening for his business deals in City Hall.

A well-known Easton attorney stunned a Brockton Planning Board meeting when he made a racially insensitive comment to one of the African-American board members about slavery. (The Enterprise)

Lawrence officials, including Mayor Dan Rivera, party at a bar that seems to have received lenient treatment from regulators after several incidents of violence. (Eagle-Tribune)

NOAA may move its science center out of Woods Hole, and Gloucester officials make the case that it should be moved to the nation’s premier fishing port. (Gloucester Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Court records suggest the Springfield office of the Department of Homeland Security is in disarray, wracked by internal squabbling. (Masslive)

Local Democrats, including US Sen. Elizabeth Warren and US Rep. Seth Moulton, back President Obama on his gun measures. (The Sun)

Since President Obama took office in 2009, the stocks for the nation’s two leading gun manufacturers have outperformed Apple, with stock prices spiking after each mass shooting and clamor for more gun control. (New York Times)

House and Senate conservative are up in arms about a provision tucked in the omnibus spending bill that could quadruple the number of H-2B visas for guest workers, saying House Speaker Paul Ryan reneged on his promise for open process. (National Review)

A huge gas leak plunges Los Angeles into a state of emergency. (Time)

ELECTIONS

US Rep. Seth Moulton confirms he will seek re-election. (Eagle-Tribune)

The low spark of high-heeled boys: Marco Rubio‘s boots are drawing as much interest as any of his policy positions these days. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Route 1 may be the auto mile but a stretch in Hingham and Norwell is becoming the golden auto mile as British automaker McLaren, whose cars run in the $300,000 and higher range, is the latest luxury car dealership to open in the region. (Patriot Ledger)

The Mandarin Oriental Boston hotel is being sold for $140 million, or nearly $1 million per room. (Boston Herald)

A new source for all things philanthropic, Almanac of American Philanthropy, has launched with everything from the history of philanthropy in this country dating back to 1635 to details about who gives and doesn’t give. Massachusetts, among the wealthiest states in the country, ranks near the bottom with just 2.2 percent of adjusted gross income donated to nonprofits. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

The Chipotle chain, which has a local PR problem after an outbreak of norovirus sickened visitors to a Boston outlet, is now facing a criminal investigation related to an August food poisoning outbreak at a California outlet, according to the Associated Press. (Boston Herald)

Digital technology embedded in athletic footwear that provides information on workouts is fast becoming the new normal for the industry. (Boston Herald)

RELIGION

The Fall River Diocese, struggling with diminishing revenues, has frozen its pension plan for all employees. (Standard-Times)

EDUCATION

The Perverted Justice Foundation was responsible for the mysterious resignation of Swampscott High School principal Edward Rozmiarek, Beverly Police say members of the organization, masquerading as a 13-year-old girl, held Internet chats with Rozmiarek. The chats did not rise to the level of a crime, Essex County DA Jonathan Blodgett said. (Daily Item)

Education Week’s annual report again ranks Massachusetts public schools No. 1 in the nation. (WBUR)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

James Hunt Jr. and Antonia McGuire say community health centers have been ahead of the curve in addressing the rising cost of care. (CommonWealth)

TRANSPORTATION 

The Baker administration’s definition of “fare” would allow the MBTA to raise the price of bus and subway passes at any time and by any amount despite a state law limiting fare hikes to 10 percent every two years. (CommonWealth)

A value capture bill that has been described as a partial answer to funding the Green Line Extension gets a hearing on Beacon Hill, but neither the T nor any of the communities that would provide the funding show up to testify. (CommonWealth)

James Aloisi asks why taxes are off the table to address the T’s challenges. (WGBH)

An Item editorial backs an MBTA fare increase, saying transit riders get what they pay for. The T’s bus drivers and train operators are the highest paid in the country, the Herald reports.

Greater Boston takes a look at the bevy of bills protecting cyclistsin Massachusetts, including side guards on trucks, banning parking or idling in bike lanes, and requiring a three-foot clearance when passing bikes, even if it means motorists crossing the center line.

Yellow Cab Co-op, the largest taxi company in San Francisco, the home base of Uber and Lyft, files for bankruptcy. (San Francisco Examiner) Meanwhile, Massachusetts police chiefs call for fingerprinting Uber drivers. (Boston Globe) Uber settles with the New York attorney general over “God view” tracking program. (Buzzfeed)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Rachel Bond is arraigned and held on $1 million bail in connection with the death of her daughter, Bella Bond. (Boston Globe)

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination orders the reinstatement of a black police recruit in Boston who was fired for allegedly cheating on an exam, ruling that the department handled more harshly discipline issues involving blacks than whites. (Boston Globe)

The judge in the resentencing trial of convicted spree killer Gary Lee Sampson, who twice rejected prosecutor’s motions to recuse himself, is stepping aside to pursue his interest in international judicial issues. (Patriot Ledger)

A Boston Herald editorial urges the state to ensure adequate resources for the Sex Offender Registry Board in the wake of a new court ruling that changes the standard for how offenders are classified.

MEDIA

Emily Rooney reports that Globe publisher John Henry ignored internal warnings about switching newspaper delivery companies, siding with external consultants. (WGBH) In a tweet, Henry responds: “WGBH now has added a fiction writer to its news lineup.”

Forbes has some success asking online readers to turn off ad blockers in return for an ad-lite reading experience.

PASSINGS

Peter Dreier has a remembrance of Howard Leibowitz, activist, “mensch,” and aide to two Boston mayors, who died in late December. (Huffington Post)

Dorchester’s Ed Cook offers a tribute to Dave Barry, a longtime activist in Boston’s largest neighborhood. (Dorchester Reporter)