Markey, Hoye call for more funding of drug treatment programs

TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye are drawing attention to a drug that’s even deadlier than heroin, saying it’s fueling the overdose epidemic in the region.

At a news conference Wednesday, Markey called on President Donald Trump to crack down on the Mexican and Chinese governments for allowing fentanyl – a powerful painkiller – into the United States.

“We’re running out of time,” said Markey. “I am going to make this my number 1 priority in Washington, to fight this fentanyl epidemic.”

Markey also called on Congress to approve $1 billion to $2 billion for support programs such as Cory’s Cause in Taunton, which aims to educate students and parents about the dangers of drug addiction.

“We have to put the treatment programs in place and we have to fund those programs,” Markey said.

Markey and Hoye – along with former President Barack Obama’s drug czar – held a similar news conference in the city back in 2014 and announced the overdose problem had become an epidemic. They urged for the widespread distribution of overdose-reversal spray naxolone, otherwise known as Narcan.

“If we can get Narcan into the hands of first responders and into the hands of families,” Markey added, “we have a real chance to do something.”

The mayor said the work they began three years ago has had a noticeable impact in his city.

“Knock on wood – in 2017, we have had zero deaths as a result of overdoses,” said Hoye.

Markey did say, however, that there’s still a long road ahead and called attention to Trump’s proposed budget.

“We don’t need more trident missiles,” said Markey. “We need more funding for treatment.”

According to the city of Taunton, there were 256 heroin-related overdoses in 2016 and 36 fatal heroin overdoses last year. The city compiled for Eyewitness News the number of overdoses from January through March of the past three years, which show a significant decrease in both overdoses and fatal overdoses.