Death by opioid overdose is at epidemic proportions. According to the Massachusetts Department of Health, 445 lives were lost in Barnstable County from 2010 to 2018. Deaths in 2018 more than tripled from those in 2010. The loss of a loved one is a devastating outcome of this disease.

Addiction shows no preference for age, gender, or socioeconomic status and can affect anyone at any stage of life. Even without a fatal outcome, addiction impacts the health and well being of our community in a multitude of ways. Loss of employability and productivity, physical and emotional health impairment of those suffering from addiction and their loved ones, and reduced quality of life are but a few examples. But in treatment, we find hope.

Research shows marked increase in success for long-term sobriety with the use of medications used to treat addiction, such as Suboxone (buprenorphine), methadone, and Vivitrol/naltrexone. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, achievable success measures include increased survival, increased productivity, increased retention in care, improved interpersonal relationships, and decreased criminal activity. Medications are most effective when paired with integrative treatment programs that include counseling, psychiatric care, and primary care to maintain health. Studies prove treatment involving medication, by reducing risk of relapse, can decrease community rates of infection with hepatitis and HIV.

At Community Health Center of Cape Cod, we have a substance use treatment program which provides this integrative model of care, with compassion and understanding, available to anyone in need in the community. We have healthcare professionals who can provide consults, education, treatment, and medication, often within the same day. While our health center offers these vital services, data show there is more work ahead. Statistics show the rate of medication-assisted addiction treatment is sorely underused.

Successfully solving this problem requires full community action and support to spread awareness. It can’t be done in a day, but with dedication over time we can heal our community together. It will require hard work and dedication from health care providers, fire, police and EMS, corrections systems, community members, and many more. Join us in the fight for the health of our community.

Ms. Regan is manager of the Substance Use Disorder Program at Community Health Center of Cape Cod.

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