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Mayor Walsh hosts substance abuse, prevention and recovery services task force meeting with US mayors

January 21, 2016

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

The meeting was held as part of the 84th Annual Winter Meeting, taking place in Washington D.C.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh yesterday chaired the first meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayor's Substance Abuse, Prevention and Recovery Services Task Force. The meeting was held as part of the 84th Annual Winter Meeting, taking place in Washington D.C.

"This will be a different kind of task force," said Mayor Walsh. "Addressing substance abuse is something that we, as mayors, have a responsibility to do, not just in terms of treatment and prevention, but as a mechanism for improving the way our constituents live. We need to incorporate aspects of tackling substance abuse into all functions of city government, from public health, to public works, from outreach and recovery to operations and resources."  

Wednesday's inaugural meeting focused on identifying effective tools for addressing the national substance abuse epidemic. By addressing three key pieces - substance abuse, treatment, and recovery services, the Task Force hopes to collaborate across cities on ways to reduce substance abuse, increase access to and improve treatment and recovery services. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from drug overdose in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record, with substantial increases in opioid overdose deaths. In 2014, opioid overdose deaths hit record levels with an alarming 14% year-over-year increase. In addition to an increase in opioid-related overdoses and fatalities, alcohol abuse continues to be a serious problem, in Boston, and around the country. Mayor Walsh highlighted much of the work that the City of Boston has undertaken to address the opioid crisis. From ensuring all first responders carry Narcan to partnering with the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation to conduct a thorough analysis of the scope of Boston's substance abuse addiction problem and using the recommendations from that year-long process to open the first municipal Office of Recovery Services in the country, aiming to address the many challenges caused by substance abuse.  

Attending mayors from around the country shared needs and best practices, and thanked Mayor Walsh for chairing the Task Force. Guest speakers at the Task Force meeting included Mary Lou Leary, Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Tom Coderre, Senior Advisor to the Administrator of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In opening the Task Force meeting, Mayor Walsh addressed the topic of substance abuse as not just a drug and alcohol-related issue, but one that impacts all aspects of city life.  

The Substance Abuse, Prevention and Recovery Services Task Force was created in September 2015. Mayor Walsh was named Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayor's Task Force on Substance Abuse, Prevention and Recovery Services by U.S. Conference of Mayors President, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, citing his knowledge of and commitment to addressing the issue of substance abuse. In May, the City of Boston released a report on the current status of substance abuse and addiction to serve as a road map for the Mayor's Office of Recovery Services, the first-ever municipal-based office to focus on this issue. The Office of Recovery Services works to improve existing addiction and recovery services and create a continuum of high quality services, help families and those fighting addiction navigate the city's available resources, and work with City Departments, community partners and the recovery community to support a comprehensive response to the issue of substance abuse.  

As part of Mayor Walsh's participation in the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, on Thursday he joined Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Mayor Ashley Swearengin of the City of Fresno, California to participate in a press briefing held by Josh Earnest, Press Secretary for President Obama.