Cantwell advances task force for prevention effort on mental health, addiction
Posted Jul 14, 2016 at 10:09 PM
Updated at 10:13 PM
BOSTON -- The money spent to fight drug addiction and the epidemic of opioid overdoses across the country and in Massachusetts isn’t getting at the problem before it starts.
That’s the message behind a new statewide task force ushered in by Gov. Charlie Baker and based on legislation authored by State Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield.
The 21-member behavioral health task force will focus squarely on prevention and assessing what practices have the best track record in addressing behavioral health problems such as substance abuse and depression before the problems spiral into crime, a drug overdose or a suicide.
Cantwell called it an urgent need and likened it to a vaccination.
“How can we act earlier for children to find some of the protective factors we can invest in?” he said Thursday. “That’s the goal for this task force.”
Cantwell has championed efforts on the South Shore to create peer support groups for drug addicts and connect people with mental health problems to resources for help through a telephone hotline.
There’s no money attached to the task force and one of its goals is to devise solutions that are frugal or reallocate money already in the budget. Cantwell said the recommendations coming from this new task force will have to “prioritize spending” to shift a focus onto preventive practices.
The task force will be comprised of directors of state health agencies, state legislators and health and educational experts appointed by the governor.
“We’ve been fighting a tide of health crises from obesity to opiate addiction that share a behavioral health core.” Cantwell said. “I believe upstream prevention and promotion are the keys to reducing costs and stamping out health issues before they ignite into crises.”
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