Substance Abuse Treatment Advocates to Lobby Lawmakers for Help
Boston - Boston residents recovering from drug and alcohol addiction will join family members, public health advocates, and elected officials at the State House on Thursday, Feb. 19, to celebrate their recovery while making a push to maintain state funding for substance abuse treatment programs.
The 12th annual Families in Recovery Day, sponsored by the Boston Public Health Commission’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, is expected to draw an array of local and state officials, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Commission’s executive director, both of whom are scheduled to make remarks.
The theme of this year’s event, which begins at 9:30 a.m. in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House, is “Empowering Our Families and Communities for Change. “ The program will feature musical performances and personal testimonies from residents who have successfully overcome their addiction. At the conclusion of the program, participants will fan out to legislative offices to press lawmakers to continue funding for substance abuse treatment and to support policies that would help sustain such programs.
“Substance abuse remains a problem for many families and communities in Boston and throughout Massachusetts,’’ Dr. Ferrer said. “While we have made great strides in expanding access to treatment, we cannot afford to lose ground at a time when people need help the most.’’
The event comes at a critical time for substance abuse treatment programs, with public health programs slated for significant state budget cuts, even as substance abuse mortality rates increase. In 2006, the last year for which complete figures were available, 176 Boston residents died as a result of alcohol and drug abuse, an increase of 54 percent from the previous year. Given the current economic crisis, many treatment providers and advocates fear that further cuts in funding would make a bad situation worse.
Those providers and advocates attending the Families in Recovery event plan to ask legislators to protect funding for substance abuse treatment; repeal the sales tax exemption for alcohol to generate more revenue for treatment programs; reform the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system to create more access to employment; and create a statewide treatment program that would allow low-level, non-violent drug offenders to receive treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
February 19, 2009