The real world experience I have gained over the years as a Corrections Officer and Police Officer have provided me with insight that most elected officials do not have. I have seen firsthand how drugs have seeped into every corner of our community and destroyed neighborhoods, families and individuals and it is truly heartbreaking. I believe my voice and experience as a public safety professional would be invaluable in the State Legislature.

I commend Governor Baker and the Legislature for showing leadership on the current opiate epidemic and signing a bill into law that will add restrictions to painkiller prescriptions and take other steps to increase addiction awareness. This is an important step, but so much more remains to be done. The new law focuses mainly on treatment, education and prevention but more must be done to stem the proliferation of heroin in our communities and provide more resources for law enforcement to effectively root out those who deal these dangerous illegal drugs. This is a place where a voice like mine would be helpful.
What we are dealing with is a supply and demand issue, and we need to attack both.

I was the first candidate for State Senate sounding the alarm on this issue back in 2014. Unfortunately, more and more of our neighbors and family members continue to become addicted to prescription opiates and heroin. Increased violent crime, house and car breaks, and neighborhood crime are all a result of this prescription drug and heroin epidemic.

International drug cartels are making millions of dollars here in New England. As beneficial as Route 91 is to the Valley, this highway has become known as a “drug and gun highway.” From the ports of New York City to New Haven, Hartford, Springfield, Holyoke, Greenfield, Brattleboro and into Canada pills and heroin are in endless supply. The sale of these drugs add resources to the very street gangs that terrorize neighborhoods in our region. This supply must be severely interrupted. The Massachusetts Legislature must demand our federal representatives do more on this front. Democrats and Republicans need to stand shoulder to shoulder and demand more resources to stem the tide of drugs brought into our region. We need to focus on more ways for federal agencies like ATF and the FBI to work hand and hand with our state and local police to slow down the supply of these dangerous drugs in a concentrated and coordinated effort. In addition; state and local government officials can only react to problems pills and heroin bring with them. Our federal government must take on a greater responsibility for our borders being penetrated with drugs.

At the state level, we can encourage and possibly add resources for cities and towns to work together and share more information. If nearby communities are aware of drug dealers in the area, they should be able to share information so they can effectively combat this threat. Also many small towns that are dealing with the influx of these drugs have only 1 or 2 detectives; many only have none. It is critical for larger communities to share resources and information with these small towns.

While the newly signed legislation does a good job at addressing the prescribing of pain killers by health care professionals; the pharmaceutical industry itself must also be held accountable for its part in the proliferation of highly addictive pills on the market. Pain management is important for those in the most desperate situations but it is a documented fact that some pharmaceutical companies have deceived the public. (http://theweek.com/articles/541564/how-american-opiate-epidemic-started-by-pharmaceutical-company)

The Massachusetts taxpayer should not be on the hook for the dramatic increase in addiction programs and law enforcement needs resulting from the deceptive practices of some pharmaceutical companies. Our Legislature should actively pursue funding from “Big Pharma” much like we did with “Big Tobacco” to combat the level of addiction and crime as a result of their false claims.

Finally, penalties for individuals caught dealing and selling pills and heroin in the Commonwealth must be increased. It’s well known that many users are also selling drugs to feed their habit, but high level dealers bringing large quantities of pills and heroin into our state should have a higher level of accountability. These criminals must know that this crime is taken seriously and will not be tolerated.

The Pioneer Valley is critically ill with respect to drug addiction and crime. All levels of our government, non-profit and business community are needed to step up and fight this epidemic, but it can be done with leadership. As your next State Senator, I will provide that leadership for the Pioneer Valley, and work with anyone and everyone to tackle this crisis head-on.