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The Patriot Ledger: Markey discusses opiate epidemic with Braintree officials

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey said the conversation usually turns to the problem of opiate addiction when he meets with local officials around the state.

As a discussion topic, it ranks with transportation, health care and education, he said.

Opiate addiction “is something we need to come to grips with as a nation,” the Democratic senator said.

Markey was at Braintree Town Hall on Thursday for a meeting with Mayor Joseph Sullivan, state Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, state Rep. Mark Cusack, D-Braintree, and town department heads.

The senator has been holding similar sessions in other communities, and his Thursday itinerary also included stops in Taunton and Melrose.

Sullivan said the meetings show that Markey “wants to be responsive on local issues.”

Police Chief Russell Jenkins and Fire Chief James O’Brien told Markey that 63 overdose deaths have been prevented with use of the drug Narcan over the past 17 months.

Markey praised the chiefs for efforts to get overdose victims into treatment programs immediately.

He said the number of overdose deaths threatens to exceed the number of deaths from firearms and motor vehicle accidents.

“We have an epidemic and we need to deal with it,” Markey said.

The approach needs to be comprehensive, and making treatment programs more easily available is crucial, the senator said. Also needed are increased drug enforcement and more education for medical professionals prescribing the drugs, he said.