NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force has been awarded a federal grant of more than $1.8 million to continue its work to fight opioids in New Bedford, Dartmouth, and Fairhaven.
The grant, awarded from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will support the TRAIN (Teach, Reach, and Initiate Naloxone) Project and will be spread out over the next for years. The New Bedford Health Department and New Bedford Police Department will also partner with Fishing Partnership Support Services for the program.
TRAIN will seek to reach more than 7,000 people through education for treatment and recovery services. Additionally, it will train first responders and certain community members in naloxone administration, as well as drug safety.
“The battle against the opioid epidemic requires an all-out community-based effort, with the support of government resources at every level. With the emergence of fentanyl as a contributing factor in overdoses in our region, the more Naloxone that is available to our first responders and community stakeholders, the more lives will be saved,” said U.S. Rep. William Keating. “This funding will bring proven, effective prevention models, including recovery coaching, to more people in need in our district. I applaud the HHS for funding this initiative, and congratulate the Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force for bringing these much-needed resources to the South Coast.”
TRAIN will also add a recovery coaching staff to the task forces’ post overdose follow-up program to provide people and families with resources and help with treatment and recovery services.
“The TRAIN Project will have a significant impact on the Task Force’s efforts to reach the individuals and families that the opioid epidemic has affected across the region. We are pleased to add more tools to our toolbox when it comes to addressing opioids in our communities,” said Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, co-chair of the Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force.
Last year, New Bedford became one of the first cities in Massachusetts to launch the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), a program aimed at finding alternative ways of handling people involved with low-level drug crimes other than arresting them.
Also, due to the success of the task force, New Bedford was one of six cities nationwide to present at the National League of Cities Mayors’ Institute on Opioids last year to share best practices in combating the opioid epidemic.
“The Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force has successfully worked to combat the opioid epidemic that has touched far too many families in our area, as it has across the country. I commend the Task Force for its successful application for this important funding, and I’m grateful to Congressman Keating for his support along the way,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “As much as we do at the municipal level to deal with it, we need the resources of the federal government to make a difference. Far too many kids, parents, husbands, uncles, you name it, it has effected just about everybody.”
Those who are doing the ground work in communities in southeast Massachusetts to fight this issue said the money will make a difference.
Rev. David Lima is a longtime task force member and said, “You save a life, you keep them alive enough to get them the treatment that works. We are able to have a stronger community for it. It’s going to work.”
Overdoses in the city have been declining in recent years. As of September of this year, there have been a total of 457 overdoses. In 2016, the city saw the most overdoses at 685.