NEWSLETTER: Week of Nov. 9

Local addiction leaders are celebrating national election results, elected officials are blasting big pharma, much more


Welcome to the latest edition of the Substantive Newsletter, a weekly source for news from Boston’s addiction and recovery communities. 

This is the tenth weekly newsletter I’ve sent out since launching this journalistic effort earlier this fall. Just a few months into this work, I’m so grateful to the hundreds of people who have opened an article, shared a link, followed Substantive on social media or subscribed to this newsletter itself. 

This week, like so many others, showed the importance of informed discussion on the topic of addiction. 

Let’s get to the news…


Local leaders celebrate nationwide drug policy reforms

A chorus of local harm reductionists, advocates and researchers harmonized in tweeted celebration, last week, as ballot question results showed voters across the country siding with progressive ideologies on drug policy. 

As four states legalized marijuana, and as Oregon radically decriminalized a swath of hard drugs, experts proclaimed tectonic shifts in the politics of addiction. 

Massachusetts, of course, legalized marijuana in 2016 and is currently mulling a bill to authorize a pilot program for safe, on site consumption of IV drugs like heroin. 

That bill, though, remains mired in controversy and conversation among Boston residents, advocates, and politicians alike.

Learn about this new wave of drug reforms via the link in the headline above…

And learn more about safe consumption sites via Substantive reporting from earlier this year…

STAYING ON TOP OF THIS: Ongoing stories we ought to follow

Clark joins coalition blasting DOJ deal with Purdue Pharma

Congresswoman Kathrine Clark, whose district includes Cambridge and a series of communities to the north and west of Boston, joined a growing list of public figures blasting a federal settlement with the company behind the deadly opioid OxyContin, this week. 

Announced last month, the Department of Justice’s $8 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma had the company plead guilty to misleading the public on the addiction risk of their drug before then then dissolving Purdue as it currently exists.

The deal, though, doesn’t entirely erase Purdue. Instead, it includes plans to convert the brand into a “public benefit company.”

Clark and nearly 50 other federal legislators say that status risks entangling the federal government in future sales of OxyContin while broadly failing to serve justice for the people hurt by addictions Purdue helped start.

Read Clark’s statement on all this via the link in the headline above…

SNAPSHOTS: Other stories in the news this week

Walsh says Biden administration could offer direct relief from Boston’s opioid crisis

Speaking at a community forum, Monday, Boston mayor Marty Walsh said the upcoming administration of President Elect Joe Biden could offer a sense of direction and focus in handling the kinds of drug issues now plaguing neighborhoods like the South End’s Mass and Cass region. 

Specifically addressing residents who have been protesting conditions in their streets for months, Walsh further insisted that his local government is making progress on its own. 

Following that meeting, though, some residents voiced continued frustration. Walsh, a rising star within the national Democratic Party, is a candidate for a spot in Biden’s cabinet. Thus, some note, he’s got a political imperative to praise the President Elect.

Likewise, as past political promises have gone unfulfilled, residents say they are still just generally unimpressed with their city’s efforts on their behalf.

Learn more about this most recent public forum via Boston 25 reporting, linked in the headline above...

COVID-19 outbreak at civil commitment site prompts Pressley, Rollins to call for prisoner releases

Boston congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Suffolk County district attorney Rachael Rollins are calling for the release of low-level nonviolent Massachusetts prisoners after a pair of prison coronavirus outbreaks, last month. 

Should Gov. Charlie Baker acquiesce to this request, such a release could free many people currently serving time on non-violent drug convictions. 

This is something the state has already done under the unique pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, it’s been broadly deemed necessary to allow for any semblance of social distancing inside correctional facilities.

People like city recovery services director Jen Tracey, however have also told Substantive that those releases could be to blame for some of the recent surge in people living unhoused in places like the Mass and Cass area.

Simply, not everyone released from prison has a home to return to.

Read the full letter from Pressley and Rollins to Baker via the link in the headline above…

And see further reporting from WBUR’s Deborah Becker explaining all this...

City Council Candidate talks addiction at post election march

A city council candidate taking part in a “Protect the Vote” march, last week, noted a link between key protest grievances and the root causes of addiction just as his protest itself snaked through the geographic heart of Boston’s addiction crisis. 

Speaking with Substantive amid a crowd initially gathered near Nubian Square in Roxbury, Democrat Samuel Pierce noted how the very systemic racism protesters railed against had long generated the kinds of trauma that can lead to addiction. 

As marchers moved across Mass Ave in the South End, where issues of addiction, homelessness and other ripple effects of substance use have long been rampant, Pierce further discussed how gentrification has possibly inflamed these kinds of addiction crises.

Read more of his comments and learn much more about this protest via the link in the headline above...

What’s missing?: One story I’ll be following up on

There’s clear follow up reporting to be done on the local and national condemnation of last month’s Purdue Pharma/DOJ settlement. 

As Rep. Kathrine Clark joins the crowd now calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to reevaluate things, she brings her own long record of advocacy particularly against Purdue and its founding family, the Sacklers. 

I plan on digging into that record and discussing Clark as an evolving leader in the discussion on justice and accountability for pharmaceutical companies peddling of potentially addictive drugs. 

Likewise, I’ll also be watching developments out of the Mass and Cass area as protests there continue and dialogue with city officials remains as tense as it is copious.

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