Mass. Bishops urge action on opioid crisis

With Massachusetts facing a growing epidemic of opioid addiction, the Massachusetts Catholic bishops issued a statement March 2 urging actions to be taken to quell the epidemic.

"The abuse and misuse of opioids has become a national and local epidemic that has increasingly been felt in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in recent years. On average, four people lose their lives each day in this state, due to illegal and legal drug overdoses. It is a disturbing trend that must be stopped," said the statement signed by Boston Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus, Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski and Fall River Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha.

The statement was issued through the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in the commonwealth.

In their statement, the bishops asked that health care providers "demand improved education within their own professional groups about the appropriate indications, prescriptions and use of opioid medications."

Additionally, they urged lawmakers to continue working on legislation to combat the opioid crisis.

"While new legislation alone will not solve the opioid crisis in Massachusetts, it is a critical step that must be taken soon. We urge the Governor and the Legislature to continue their work on this legislation and to provide the necessary resources, human and fiscal, to implement comprehensive education and treatment services to address and correct this ever-growing crisis," the bishops wrote.

Speaking with The Pilot March 2, MCC executive director Jim Driscoll said the Massachusetts bishops are hoping to join those working on legislation to "talk about how important this is as well."

However, the next step MCC is also hoping to take is to "make the general public aware of this crisis on a more local level," said Driscoll.

MC Sullivan, chair of the HealthCare Subcommittee for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, is helping the organization take that step.

"While there is tremendous attention, and some significant unanimity of thought and approach to addressing this crisis, I think it so important that spiritual or pastoral care be explicitly present as part of the community's response to this tragic trend," she wrote in an email to The Pilot, March 2.

She listed several possible ways the crisis could be addressed locally, including encouraging parishes to sponsor healing services for those with addiction and their families, promoting education on addition in schools and parishes, and calling for a day of parish or diocesan-wide prayer for those suffering from chemical dependency and their families.

You can read the full statement here.