Mayor Walsh speaks at first annual Opioid Screening and Awareness Day

Protesters stop traffic at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Washington Street during a community-led rally for opioid action on Sept. 3, 2020. Photo by Caitlin Faulds/BU News Service

By Haley Chi-Sing
BU News Service

BOSTON – Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh and medical experts from across the commonwealth spoke at the first annual Massachusetts Opioid Screening and Awareness Day Town Hall on Tuesday.

The virtual two-hour long panel was a collaboration between “Fighting Opioid Misuse” and the Brigham B-Core Program as a means of spreading awareness of the growing opioid crisis and breaking the stigma around drug abuse.

Originally scheduled to be an in-person town hall, the event was hosted and mediated by Dr. Scott Weiner, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Weiner was joined by Rep. John Santiago of the 9th District for opening remarks, which were promptly followed by two introductory videos featuring Sen. Julian Cyr and Dr. David Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Shouts of “Where is Marty” and “Where is Charlie” ring out on Massachusetts Avenue on Sept. 3, 2020, as protesters push city and state officials to address the opioid crisis. Photo by Caitlin Faulds/BU News Service

Walsh joined the conversation from his office in Boston as a vocal advocate of breaking the stigma around opioid substance abuse.

“Boston’s commitment to recovery support happened long before COVID-19. We’re battling another public health crisis – the opioid epidemic – and the city of Boston has been a long leader in this fight,” said Mayor Walsh during his opening remarks.

The mayor continued by outlining the city’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis starting in 2014 with the opening of the first Municipal Office of Recovery Services and the establishment of “one of the strongest recovery networks in the country” through the joint efforts of Boston city government and local providers.

Walsh also emphasized the importance of community-wide efforts outside of solely medical endeavors to cut down on the opioid crisis and destigmatize substance abuse. The mayor included current plans geared towards the opioid crisis, including the training of first responders as recovery coaches and the diversion of resources towards treatment rather than criminal justice efforts. 

Due to the large volume of panelists and time constraints, there was no Q&A portion of the town hall. A recorded version is uploaded to the “Fighting Opioid Misuse” website at https://opioidscreening.org/.

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