Public safety, health officials discuss opioid epidemic

By Matthew Bernat | Sep 29, 2016
Photo by: Matthew Bernat From left: Jeanne Flynn, Dr. David McGinnis and Police Chief Kevin Walsh at the Tobey Hospital Guild's opioid discussion on Thursday.

With one in seven people in the United States struggling with a substance abuse disorder, battling the epidemic may seem insurmountable. However, the solution starts with changing attitudes toward addiction, health and public safety officials stressed on Thursday.

“It’s unbelievable that so many people in this country are addicted or have a substance use disorder,” said Dr. David McGinnis, chair of Tobey Hospital’s Emergency Department. “The problem is that it’s seen as a moral failing…I would love for people to view it as an illness.”

McGinnis addressed the opioid epidemic at a public forum hosted by the Tobey Hospital Guild in the Rosebrook Event Center.

He spoke on behalf of the medical community and was part of a three-person panel assembled to discuss the epidemic.

Jeanne Flynn of Bourne spoke on behalf of families who are dealing with the issue. Flynn’s son Brian died as a result of a heroin overdose in 2015. Since then, she’s advocated for getting better insurance coverage for treatment, increasing services and changing how the criminal justice system treats addicts.

Wareham Police Chief Kevin Walsh represented law enforcement on the panel. Walsh echoed McGinnis’s call for action.

Since he joined the Wareham Police Department in 1985 Walsh said his views on heroin addicts have changed. Back then, heroin users were thought of as the worst class of drug user.

Since then, Walsh said he now sees users in a different light.

“This disease knows no boundaries,” said Walsh. “It will take over your life and the lives of your family and friends.”

Wareham has been particularly hard hit by the epidemic, said Walsh. Since January, police responded to 120 overdose calls. Of those 120 overdoses, 10 resulted in death.

Prevention is key said Walsh, who noted that a major announcement regarding the formation of a new, inter-agency task force to deal with the problem is forthcoming soon.

Locally, Walsh said police have several programs in the schools held throughout the year to spread awareness of the issue. He noted some children live with parents suffering from addiction.

“They have seen it firsthand as kids and that’s the saddest part of all,” said Walsh.

From a parent’s perspective, Flynn said watching her son fight his addiction for 10 years was heart wrenching.

“If you lose your parents, you’re an orphan; if you lose a husband you’re a widow,” said Flynn. “There is no name for someone who loses a child, but I call myself a lost mom.”

Flynn said she became aware her son had a problem when, at age 17, he suffered a seizure due to cocaine use.

Following that she said he spent years in and out of treatment and overdosed a total of 17 times before his fatal overdose.

Flynn said during that time it was difficult to know how to best help her son. She said is death served as a catalyst to help others in similar situations.

“We didn’t make him an addict and we couldn’t unmake him an addict,” said Flynn. “Hopefully I can use my voice to help others. The key is prevention.”

Comments (7)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Oct 03, 2016 11:38

Its a moral failing alright! If people caught selling this stuff faced a life sentence or death penalty like the ones they impose on their customers. The problem would be greatly reduced or stopped. The increase in this problem is directly proportional to immigration, gang problem and PC BS that has been allowed to grow like a cancer.

Posted by: 181mph | Oct 03, 2016 12:43

the increase in this problem is directly proportional to the politicians that are taking big pharma money and allowing big pharma to create junkies all over this country, but ballbuster wont talk about that, instead he brings his version of what the problem is, blame everyone but who actually is the problem,,

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Oct 03, 2016 15:26

If they cant buy it, where are they going to get it? If there is a Dr prescribing or Pharmacy selling illegally then they are a dealer and get life sentence or better yet death like any other dealer. If there is none available then where do they get it 181? Do they make it from household items? When O'Bama lets people run back and forth across the border like the wind, they are bringing death with them. Drug dealers need to be treated like the scum they are and once caught be eliminated permanently. Your O'Bama is releasing this scum back on to the streets to kill again so they can vote for the Her.We need to hunt these dealers down and take them off the street forever with no ifs ands or buts, They are gone like they never existed. That message will spread and have meaning to anyone else considering selling drugs.

Posted by: 181mph | Oct 04, 2016 13:51

hey ballbuster, the big drug dealers u talk about are big pharma, all the politicians u seem to like are taking money from big pharma, big pharma pushes the docs to prescribe and then when someone is hooked and the docs stop prescribing the peeps turn to street drugs like heroin,,

as far as mexicans bringing death across the border, that would be you listening to the trumpster, you know, the guy you support even tho you are always spoutin off about people paying their hard earned money on taxes, yet you support someone that hasn't paid any taxes in how many years?

but you hav the answers, it's o'bamas fault,,hurricane matthew is comin, that's o'bamas fault also i reckon,,,

you need 2 get ur shit straight b4 postin as you surely are not posting in reality most the time


Posted by: Spherebreaker | Oct 04, 2016 15:52

181, How do they get their drugs if all the dealers are either dead or locked up for life? Maybe you should stop being such a supporter of and apologist for drug dealers.I guess you like many hillary voters don't understand tax law and deductions because you probably never had to file. Do you drive a white truck? PS Hurricane Matthew is O'Bamas fault just like Katrina was Bush's.

Posted by: 181mph | Oct 05, 2016 18:18

they get them from lowlife individuals like yourself looking 2 make a quick tax free score,

you just another gutless person that likes to bust everyone's aggies from behind ur PC screen,

get a life moron

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Oct 06, 2016 07:12

I just experience exceptional joy in busting on drug dealers, thugs and their supporters.

If you wish to comment, please login.