Physician Dedicated to Preventing Opioid Addiction Presents to Bipartisian Working Group on Addiction

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At the invitation of Congresswoman Lori Trahan (Democrat-Westford) Dr. James Baker, who practices medicine in Massachusetts’ Third Congressional District, presented to members of the Bipartisan Freshman Working Group on Addiction at their July 18 policy breakfast.

The Freshman Working Group on Addiction, of which U.S. Rep. Trahan is a founding member, aims to capitalize on the new blood and energy of the 116th Congress to come together to understand the extent of the impacts of addiction and to jointly promote policies to reduce overdoses and deaths.

“Dr. Baker has dedicated his life to making sure that no other family goes through the pain and anguish that his family has gone through since he lost his son, Max, who fell victim to opioid addiction. His advocacy has made me a better policy maker and has directly influenced legislation I have introduced to require future prescribers to learn safe opioid prescription practices. It was a great honor to host Dr. Baker to Washington, DC so that he could engage with my colleagues and me. We are in a better position to bring about effective policy prescriptions because of his personal story and medical insight,” said Trahan.

Baker was featured on PBS Newshour in 2017 and his son Max’s story was highlighted in a WGBH piece that year as well.

Baker was joined by Dr. Travis Rieder, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, who discussed the dependence he developed on opioids following a motorcycle accident, and his own painful experience in going through withdrawal. Both Rieder and Baker offered some recommendations for policymakers based on their experiences.

Biography: James L. Baker, M.D., M.P.H.

Baker served at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School as faculty in emergency medicine and is now affiliated with UMass Medical School.  While at Hopkins, he received his Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology as a Mellon Foundation Scholar.  Dr. Baker also completed a Fellowship through Harvard Medical School at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Mass General Hospital in Pain and Palliative Care.  Since then he has cared for thousands of patients with terminal illness and their families and continues to provide end-of-life care at Merrimack Valley Hospice (in  Trahan’s 3rdCongressional District).  Baker also served in the U.S. Army with service in Vietnam during 1972 and 1973.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic he performed HIV related research at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and then served as leader of the Physician Review Group for the Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic, assisting with policy recommendations to the President.

Baker’s youngest son, Max, began experimenting with drugs as an adolescent and became addicted to heroin at 17.  Max later found recovery with the help of medication assisted therapy but suffered multiple injuries in a car accident in late 2016, and died on December 28, 2016, at the age of 23 from an overdose when he relapsed following surgery.

Since his son’s death, Baker has dedicated himself to preventing addiction and overdose through teaching, writing, and advocacy.  He also serves as a physician consultant every week to the newly formed Massachusetts Consultation Service for the Treatment of Addiction and Pain (MCSTAP), a state funded service that provides guidance, free of charge, to all physicians and nurses in Massachusetts who care for patients with addiction or complex pain.