Letter to the Editor

November 11, 2017
By

WE ARE OUTRAGED

Dear Mr. President, Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and Members of Congress:

As mayors of cities across Massachusetts, we are all too familiar with the utterly destructive effects of the opioid addiction epidemic that has touched our communities, and communities across the nation. Opioid addiction remains a true public health crisis, and perhaps the most complex and vexing social problem of our time.

Collectively, we were outraged to watch the October 15th “60 Minutes” segment, detailing how drug distributors successfully lobbied Congress to strip the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of its authority to prosecute the unlawful large-scale distribution of prescription opioids to “pain clinics” that emerged overnight in small towns. We are pleased to see that one of the lead congressional champions of the law to gut the enforcement authority of the DEA, Representative Tom Marino of Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district, withdrew from consideration for the position of the country’s next drug czar, or leader of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Now, we respectfully yet urgently request that:

  1. The next nominee for the nation’s drug czar be free of financial or other connections to the prescription drug distribution industry, and be of unassailable professional and personal character; and
  2. That Congress repeal and replace the April 2016 law, passed through a parliamentary procedure without debate, that stripped the DEA of critical enforcement authority; the new law must give the DEA the authority to protect the interests of the public and simply cannot be bought and paid for by the legal drug distribution industry. It should go without saying that the law must be fully vetted and debated on the floor of Congress with a roll call vote.

For the past several years, we and members of our communities have attended the funerals of friends, and the funerals of the children of friends, with sickening regularity. These lives have been lost too soon to addiction, and each loss is a tragedy for not only the family and friends of the individual lost, but for us all. The loss of any one person changes so many lives and each and every time, the effects of that loss spread throughout our cities and are felt for decades to come.

And so we all do what we can in our communities. The families of those who have suffered such loss mobilize to support other families coping with addiction, hoping to prevent the loss of yet another life. Vigils are held, and screenings of documentaries, conferences on best practices. We talk to our children, to our neighbors, about the risks of misusing prescription opioids. We hire social workers and recovery coaches to complement the work of our first responders, trying to offer help to those who overdose by meeting them where they are. We launch programs designed to address all of the components of this public health crisis, from prevention to intervention to treatment to recovery. We invest time, money, and our deepest hopes that through all these efforts, we can stem the tide of addiction-related fatalities.

What we need and demand on the federal level is a Congress that will prioritize our families over the drug industry, a DEA with the enforcement authority and tools it needs to crack down on illegal corporate drug activity; and a drug czar committed to helping us in our fight instead of supporting industry profit at the expense of our children.

Respectfully,

Mayor Richard Cohen, Agawam

Mayor Michael P. Cahill, Beverly

Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan, Braintree

Mayor Bill Carpenter, Brockton

Mayor E. Denise Simmons,

Cambridge

City Manager Thomas G. Ambrosino, Chelsea

Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Everett

Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II, Fall River

Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale,

Fitchburg

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Gloucester

Mayor William F. Martin, Greenfield

Mayor James F. Fiorentini, Haverhill

Mayor Dan Rivera, Lawrence

Mayor Gary Christenson, Malden

Mayor Arthur Vigeant, Marlborough

Mayor Stephanie Muccini Burke, Medford

Mayor Robert J. Dolan, Melrose

Mayor Jon Mitchell, New Bedford

Mayor Donna D. Holaday,

Newburyport

Mayor Setti Warren, Newton

Mayor Richard J. Alcombright,

North Adams

Mayor Ted Bettencourt, Peabody

Mayor Linda M. Tyer, Pittsfield

Mayor Brian M. Arrigo, Revere

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Springfield

Mayor Thomas C. Hoye, Jr., Taunton

Mayor William Reichelt,

West Springfield

Mayor Scott D. Galvin, Woburn