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SPRINGFIELD — The City Council’s Health and Human Services Subcommittee hosted a meeting on Jan. 18 to discuss the fentanyl crisis in the city of Springfield.

Committee Chair Brian Santaniello commended Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris for the hard work she puts in to combat this crisis.

“This City Council is committed to doing whatever we can to help bring these numbers down. The overdoses in the state of Massachusetts are alarming and they’ve been alarming for several years now,” Santaniello said.

He asked Caulton-Harris where the fentanyl situation in Springfield currently is and where it is headed.
Caulton-Harris explained that since 2019, the city of Springfield has had the Greater Springfield Opioid Overdose Collaborative. Every month since then, community-based organizations along with the Department of Health and Human Services have been meeting.

In 2022, the John Snow Institute was commissioned to do a report for the city on the opioid crisis. That report put forth some recommendations in categories such as increasing access to care, recommendations on access to care, and is currently in the process of working with a community of individuals who have lived experiences or are addicted.

Caulton-Harris said they are doing street surveys to determine what strategies need to be implemented for the city of Springfield. She added that she has two documents she can share with the City Council for their review of the recommendations of the task force and the John Snow Institute.

The other aspect of this includes creating a plan for the city of Springfield, which Caulton-Harris said is a separate document she can also share.

She noted that an opioid response plan must be created, with data and statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Santaniello asked about marijuana being laced with other drugs. Springfield Police Sgt. Jaime Bruno said, “It certainly is and it’s not just marijuana but it’s all classes of drugs so people who illicitly purchase marijuana, cocaine, heroin, it is all being laced or cut with fentanyl so there is an epidemic that is ongoing and so it is a problem.”

Bruno noted that the problem of the overdoses or deaths is that it is being laced with fentanyl, as fentanyl is potentially 100 times more potent than heroin.

When individuals are purchasing drugs in the street, they don’t know what they are receiving.

Santaniello also asked about advertising more to get the message out. Bruno said there is a funding aspect to it and it also needs to be continuous otherwise the announcements and awareness goes by the wayside.

Santaniello shared that there will be a follow up meeting on this topic. He told Carlton-Harris and Bruno that whatever help is needed by the City Council, they have his support 100%.

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