QUESTION OF THE WEEK: U.S. Congressional Candidates for 3rd Middlesex District State Positions on Opioid Crisis

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WestfordCAT has asked the 11 U.S. Congressional candidates for the Third Middlesex District to respond to questions about pressing societal issues. The answers from the four who responded are below [Beej Das, Leonard Golder, Lori Trahan, Juana Matias, Bopha Malone, Jeff Ballinger and Rick Green did not respond].

This week’s question: Since the year 2000, Middlesex County has experienced the greatest number of opioid overdose deaths in the state. That trend has continued through 2017. What should be done to stem this epidemic for Middlesex and throughout the state.

Alexandra Chandler

Haverhill Democrat

There is much that can be done to address the opioid crisis and it starts with treating it like the public health issue that it is by using a wrap-around approach that includes treatment, education, supportive housing, transportation, and healthcare. Additionally, we must stand up to lobbyists and restore accountability to prescription drug distributors. I would also build on state Rep. Niki Tsongas’s success in passing the INTERDICT Act to include advanced fentanyl detection equipment to not only Customs and Border Protection but to the U.S. Post Office and other entities.

Rufus Gifford

Concord Democrat

We can and we must do so much more to combat the opioid epidemic head-on. As I travel across the third district, you hear story after story of how families have been devastated, and it breaks your heart.

First, we need significant federal funding to tackle this issue. I support U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bill that would provide $100 billion over 10 years.

We need to prioritize and expand access to treatment, which means providing federal resources to increase the number of beds at treatment facilities—there are many incredible facilities in our district, but they all have wait lists. We have to ensure that every person who wants treatment can receive it.

 We also need to decrease the supply of opioids to get at the root of the problem. That means much more congressional oversight over the pharmaceutical industry and prescribers.

 My policy plan to address the epidemic can be found here: https://rufusgifford.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/RG-Opioid-Plan.pdf 

Dan Koh

Andover Democrat

The opioid epidemic is tearing apart families and devastating our neighborhoods. But, in the face of this public health crisis, President Trump has actually proposed cutting funding for agencies on the frontlines of the epidemic. We must invest the necessary resources on the ground for prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services. We also need to destigmatize addiction and recognize opioid misuse for what it is: a preventable and treatable medical condition. For more information about my detailed plan to combat the opioid epidemic head on, please visit https://koh2018.com/opioid-platform/[/ezcol_1quarter]

Barbara L’Italien

Andover Democrat

We are all going to too many funerals. I personally know four people who’ve died of an overdose just this year. It is time to treat opioid addiction like the public health crisis it is. We’re not getting solutions from Washington right now, and Republican attempts to cut Medicaid would actively make it harder for those struggling to get help.

I’m the only candidate in this race who has actively taken steps to combat this crisis in Middlesex County and beyond, with years of experience as a legislator under my belt. That experience prepares me to hit the ground running in Congress, and it informs my comprehensive plan to tackle this epidemic.

This starts with giving medical professionals training, tools and resources to keep people from getting addicted to begin with. For those already addicted, we must reduce their risk with innovative programs so they can survive long enough to recover. We then need to make treatment possible for all by ensuring vulnerable people have insurance coverage and expanding the behavioral health workforce and infrastructure. Finally, we need to hold the negligent corporations who caused this epidemic accountable, with a Justice Department-led lawsuit.

You can read my full plan at teambarbara.com/issues.