Boston Residents Take On the Addiction Epidemic at Political Forum

Boston, MA — On Monday, October 26, 2015, Massachusetts residents from Cambridge Health Alliance and Boston Medical Center attended an “Across the Aisle” forum at the Edward Kennedy Institute regarding the opioid crisis in their state. The forum was an opportunity for the public to hear from government leaders from both sides of the aisle about their proposals to address the opioid crisis, barriers to success, and how they plan to address the epidemic.

In Massachusetts, death by opioid overdose has increased 63 percent in the last year. According to the state public health department and the National Safety Council, opioid-related overdoses, including heroin deaths, have killed more than four and a half times as many people statewide as motor vehicle accidents during the first half of 2015.

Residents at the forefront of addiction research were able to meet the governor and speak about the importance of training and gaining access to the prescription drug monitoring program.

“It is widely recognized that the United States will experience a shortage of health providers in the coming years unless we increase training options and funding,” shared Dr. Héctor A. Colón-Rivera, “There is a huge deficit in both residencies’ addiction training and clinical exposure…also there is a limited involvement of residents in training for addiction, safe prescription guidelines, and limited clinical sites and settings. I wanted to hear what the legislature and federal leaders have in mind to fight this epidemic.” Dr. Colón-Rivera is a SAMHSA/APA Fellow, chief resident in the Psychiatry Department at Boston Medical Center, and CIR member and leader.

“I attended the “Across the Aisle” forum in hopes of improving the state’s policies on opioids for my patients and for my fellow residents. I had the chance to speak one-on-one with Gov. Charlie Baker and express my concern that resident physicians in Massachusetts don’t have access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. I believe that advocating for changes such as this one has the potential to positively impact the health of our entire state,” said Grayson Armstrong MD MPH, a internal medicine resident at Cambridge Health Alliance.

Dr. Jon Santiago, an emergency medicine resident at Boston Medical Center, also attended the event. “It was great opportunity to watch leaders with differing ideologies, backgrounds, and responsibilities come together on an issue that touches all sides of the socioeconomic spectrum. It was a call to action for all of us affected and implicated in substance abuse issues.”

Forum participants included: Governor Charlie Baker, Senator Ed Markey, Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, and Secretary Marylou Sudders and was moderated by WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller.

This event follows a previous event in October, where CIR members attended the Boston Community Forum on Substance Abuse featuring: Hillary Clinton, Mayor Marty Walsh and Attorney General Maura Healey. Hector Colon-Rivera, a Chief Resident in Psych, asked Clinton about funding for Addiction to which she responded, “I agree with your point that we need to increase federal funding for fellowships, I’m going to steal your idea and make it part of my plan!”