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On Friday, Massachusetts State Rep. Kay Khan, a Newton Democrat and Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities filed a bill that would raise the excise tax on alcohol. (The bill isn’t online yet, says a spokesperson, but here’s the language from last year’s bill, which is identically worded.)
Our guest bloggers, Maryanne Frangules, executive director of the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, and John McGahan, president and CEO of the Gavin Foundation, Inc., argue here that the measure is badly needed to support addiction treatment and recovery services.
By Maryanne Frangules and John McGahan
Two years after voters repealed the sales tax on alcohol, which funded addiction treatment and prevention programs, the Massachusetts Health Council reported that alcohol abuse is more prevalent in Massachusetts than the U.S. on average, and emergency room visits (especially in eastern Massachusetts) for drug abuse surpassed that of other much larger metropolitan areas in 2011, including New York, Chicago and Detroit. In fact, Massachusetts ranked first — at a rate of four times the national average — for emergency room visits involving heroin.
These are not categories of achievement for which Massachusetts wants to lead the nation.
We have a drug and alcohol addiction epidemic in Massachusetts, and we need to get serious about prevention, treatment and recovery. The human and economic toll of alcohol and drug addiction are not sustainable for a healthy, civil society.
While the Legislature and Governor Patrick have supported funding for addiction services during the recession and its aftermath, we now face another fiscal year of lower revenues, reductions in spending for vital health programs and perhaps mid-year cuts to public health services, including addiction treatment.
It makes sense to invest in addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Otherwise our families continue to pay for the mounting social and economic costs of emergency room visits, law enforcement, court, and incarceration. Continue reading