The City Council discusses an Anti-Heroin Grant during its May 7 meeting.
Reminder Publishing screen capture by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — During the City Council meeting on May 7, the group accepted and discussed the Community Oriented Policing Services Anti-Heroin Grant for $10,000 which is said to be used to locate and investigate illicit activity of the distribution of opioids.

Mayor John Vieau and Police Chief Patrick Major were also at the meeting to discuss the grant.

Major discussed how the grant will work and said, “It is a reimbursement grant so as the narcotics officers from our department who are assigned to assist the Commonwealth Interstate Narcotics Reduction Enforcement team, when they’re called out to assist them, we’ll pay them upfront and then reimbursed from the state grant.”

According to its website, the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Program is “a competitive award program designed to advance public safety by providing funds directly to state law enforcement agencies in states with high per capita rates of primary treatment admissions for the purpose of locating or investigating illicit activities through statewide collaboration relating to the distribution of heroin, fentanyl or carfentanil, or to the unlawful distribution of prescription opioids.”

The council also talked about how this grant can benefit the community.

Ward 9 City Councilor Mary Beth Pniak-Costello talked about how this is a great opportunity for Chicopee.

She said, “I applaud the Chicopee Police Department for getting this $10,000. The opioid crisis exists and it exists everywhere. This is a tool to address that crisis and to get people into some type of treatment, recovery, protects the safety of the families and also it’s a very important tool in regards to public safety so that these problems get off the street sooner than later.”

Councilor At-Large Robert Zygarowski alluded to the fact that he constantly hears on the news the problems with drugs and how there are funds to help slow down or stop the problem.

“I’m glad this came forward with the Police Department. I was watching television the other day and [state Sen. John] Velis was on TV and he’s pushing that the money be spent. Evidently they’ve been sitting on this money for quite a while according to the senator and he’s advising most communities to please use the money so we can work at the distribution of opiates and help with this problem,” Zygarowski added.

Ward 6 City Councilor Sam Shumsky said he supported this grant because he knows people struggle with addiction and opioids.

“If this could potentially save a life, I think this is money well spent,“ he added.

According to the most recent study on mass.gov, preliminary data released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health between Oct. 1, 2022 and Sept. 30, 2023, showed there were 2,323 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths, eight fewer than the same time last year.

Massachusetts had a record 2,359 opioid-related overdose deaths in all of 2022.

The preliminary data also showed that fentanyl was detected in 93% of all opioid-related overdose deaths in the first three months of 2023.

The increasingly toxic drug supply in the United States and ongoing opioid epidemic have claimed the lives of more than 25,000 people in Massachusetts since 2000.