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Rep. Jon Santiago On The Opioid Crisis

As an emergency room doctor at Boston Medical Center, Jon Santiago sees the opioid crisis every day. He also sees it as a resident in the South End and he deals with it as a state representative from the 9th Suffolk district.

Santiago brought his unique perspective to Boston Public Radio Thursday to discuss what can be done at the local and state level to fight the opioid epidemic.

"We need all hands on deck. We have to have city officials on board, [and] we have to have state officials and the feds as well," he said. "I work in the emergency room. It's very acute. I take care of an overdose once or twice a shift, every shift I work. What we could do a better job at, as elected officials and as physicians, is explain just how sick these folks are. We treat these people, we Narcan, we save their lives — or do the best we can, we're not always successful — then you offer them services and they say no, many times."

Santiago said more resources are needed, but stakeholders also need to evaluate the best way to allocate those resources and services.

"After detox, it's very difficult for them to transition to a short-term bed. We have a lack of those. There's a bottleneck, and at the statehouse that's what I'm pushing for," he said. Santiago also noted there are some immediate things that can be done, including getting rid of the eight-hour training necessary for doctors to be able to prescribe medically assisted treatments like Suboxone.

He also believes safe injection sites would reduce overdose deaths.

"I believe the data: I believe you can't get someone into recovery if they're dead," he said.


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