Senator Lesser Tours Substance Abuse Recovery Programs at Liberty Prep, Mill Street

“The first response to substance abuse cannot be a police officer and a jail cell, it must be a recovery coach and a treatment bed,” said Sen. Lesser

SPRINGFIELD — On Monday, Senator Eric P. Lesser visited Liberty Preparatory Academy and the Western Massachusetts Recovery and Wellness Center, two facilities that are helping those with substance abuse disorders overcome addictions and transition back to sober life.

The visits are part of a month-long effort by Senator Lesser to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic and hear from those involved how he can further help to ease the crisis.

“It was incredibly moving and inspiring to meet with people who had taken such tremendous steps to overcome their addiction and rebuild their lives. We must make sure the success we’ve seen here in these programs is replicated across the state,” said Senator Lesser.

Springfield Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick joined Senator Lesser for the tour of Liberty Preparatory Academy, which is a public high school for students with a diagnosed substance abuse disorder.

“It was great to see Senator Lesser take an interest in our recovery program and welcome him to meet with some of the students who are doing better and better each day. We’ve worked hard over the years, and Senator Lesser has been a leader in this fight against opioid abuse. We all need to work together to fight this scourge, and are grateful for his partnership,” said Superintendent Warwick.

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi joined Senator Lesser for the tour of the Western Massachusetts Recovery and Wellness Center on Mill St. The center was established by Sheriff Michael Ashe as a way to divert nonviolent offenders struggling with drug addiction into treatment rather than county jails.

“I want to thank Senator Lesser for recently touring our regional, 139 bed, Western Massachusetts Recovery and Wellness Center and treatment facility. I am very proud of the work being done by our staff who specialize in providing the necessary treatment for long term recovery for those suffering from substance use disorders as they re-enter the community. We, at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, have been at the forefront of this effort for over 30 years, utilizing evidenced based treatments and programs with individuals suffering from addictions. I stand with Senator Lesser as we work together to prevent more of our citizens going down this path in the first place and find new opportunities to effectively treat those who fall victim to this deadly disease. Public safety is at the core of our work. Prevention and treatment will save lives and help protect the public,” said Sheriff Cocchi.

The Recovery and Wellness Center is a regional facility that also treats inmates from Worcester, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties. Its success could be measured by how much its participants want to give back: Out of two residents, and one who recently completed the program, that Senator Lesser met, one wants to come back and work for the facility and one would like to become a substance abuse counselor for high school students.

“The first response to substance abuse cannot be a police officer and a jail cell, it must be a recovery coach and a treatment bed. As I’ve said before, we need to expand the number of treatment beds available across Massachusetts, but especially here in Western Mass where we have a shortage. And we need to make sure we educate our children and young adults on the dangers of drug abuse and addiction, and the potential for addiction specific to opioids,” said Senator Lesser.

Senator Lesser has been a leader in fighting the opioid epidemic. Most recently, he sponsored an amendment to the Senate’s healthcare reform package that included funding for research into medication-assisted treatment to explore alternative treatments for pain. In January 2015, Senator Lesser filed a bill that served as a blueprint for the Massachusetts bulk purchasing program for Narcan, an opiate overdose-reversal drug.

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