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Harwich leaders approve opioid-recovery spending

Harwich Town Hall
T.S. Custadio goo.gl/z4orD1
Harwich Town Hall

Update: Feb 22 12:00pm

Harwich leaders have approved steering opioid-recovery funds toward teaching substance-use prevention in schools.

The board of selectmen on Tuesday night also approved spending half the town’s $60,000 share of public-health grants on hiring a town recovery coach.

The money comes from statewide settlements with Johnson & Johnson and opioid distributors. It is meant to expand harm-reduction services and supportive housing in Massachusetts.

Towns must spend their grants by June 30.

Feb. 20, 2023 12:15pm

Harwich town leaders tonight will consider approving a plan that would steer public-health grants toward establishing substance-use prevention in schools here and in Chatham.

Statewide settlements with Johnson & Johnson and opioid distributors will total $322 million through 2038 to address prevention and recovery. That money, known as the Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund, will expand harm-reduction services, supportive housing, and access to medication in Massachusetts.

A group appointed by the Harwich board of selectmen is recommending that half of the town's $60,000 share pay for hiring a recovery coach through Outer Cape Health Services, said Sheila House, a member of the group and the town's director of youth and family services.

"A lot of people who have developed an addiction to opioids and narcotics will tell you retrospectively that it was just one or two pills," House told CAI. "It only takes two weeks to get addicted, which is why a lot of the laws and rules have changed around prescribing them to younger people."

House is also president of the Chatham nonprofit Behavioral Health Innovators, which is developing an after-school program for students concerned with their own substance use. An additional $10,000 would go to Duffy Health Center, whose RecoveryBuild Alternative Peer Group program supports Cape Cod teens.

"There's a lot more curriculum now out there in the schools, especially when folks with lived experience come in and talk to these kids early, in 9th grade," House said. "There are kids vaping as early as 6th and 7th grades now. So you can't get them early enough."

President Biden last week on Twitter endorsed "a major surge to stop fentanyl production and sale" at the U.S.-Mexico border. But Mexico's former ambassador to the U.S. told Morning Edition the prospect is doomed.

Overdose deaths involving methadone, heroin, and fentanyl rose from 21,089 in 2010 to 80,411 in 2021, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The board of selectmen meets at 5 p.m.

Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.