The coronavirus pandemic has brought heartache to our community, from unemployment to food insecurity to loss of life. It has pushed many into isolation and severed neighbors from their routines and support systems. Tragically, this recipe was fertile ground for another public health crisis long plaguing the Commonwealth: substance use disorder.

Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths has increased in America by 250%. During this time, New England has been on the frontlines of the crisis. Massachusetts has lost an average of 1,000 residents to overdoses every year since 2000. This November, new data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 100,000 people have died of overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021, the first time that drug-related deaths have reached six figures in any single year in history.

What we know is that ending the overdose and substance use crisis takes all of us working together.

That’s why I am so grateful to welcome the Malden Bridge Recovery Center to the Fifth District. The Recovery Center is a place where people can go for support from peers and where everyone in recovery is welcome. There is even a family resource center to support those going through recovery with a loved one.

And this summer, the City of Malden and Malden Overcoming Addiction also launched Malden Cares to meet those in need where they are: volunteers and staff go into the community offering resources, snacks, water, and a helping hand.

Programs like these take time, resources, and an intimate understanding of the fight against substance use disorder. It’s a partnership between incredible leaders like Paul Hammersley, President of Malden Overcoming Addiction, Malden’s Opioid Task Force, our local elected leaders, and our federal government.

In October, following National Recovery Month, President Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services announced a new Overdose Prevention Strategy. I’m encouraged by his administration’s approach to expanding treatment, housing, and health care options. I’m also proud to report that it included funding for my Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program. One of the many barriers we face in the battle against substance use disorder is having enough treatment professionals to support those in need of care. With this program, treatment health care workers can receive up to $250,000 in loan repayment, helping to get more practitioners in the field and more support on the ground.

We can end this crisis, but it’s going to take all of us working together to educate, prevent, treat, and support those in recovery. While the pandemic has created new barriers, it is our effort together – from neighbors to local and federal officials – that will allow us to pivot, fund new and needed services, and ultimately get us from overwhelming overdose to overcoming substance use disorder.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark represents the Fifth Massachusetts District. She is assistant speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Original story HERE