You might think that in the midst of the NFL draft, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft would need to make other use of his time than a trip to Brockton.
But Kraft made time on Friday to dedicate a new mobile clinic that will serve victims of substance abuse. It’s the second such unit to be funded in part by the Kraft Center for Community Health at Massachusetts General Hospital; Boston got the first mobile clinic in 2018. For Kraft, the clinics are a tribute to the memory of his wife, Myra, who died of cancer in 2011.
“When my sweetheart passed 10 years ago, I realized the care that she had gotten [was so good}, and I thought it was important that everyone have access to good health care,” said Kraft. “That’s when we started. We really did it in Myra’s honor.”
The $120,000 mobile care unit is a fully equipped clinic where people with addiction problems can get blood tests, clean hypodermic syringes, and emergency doses of Narcan, a drug that can save the lives of people who’ve overdosed on opioid drugs such as oxycodone or fentanyl.
In Plymouth County, which includes Brockton, 165 people died of drug overdoses last year, according to the Plymouth County Drug Abuse Task Force. That’s an increase from 143 the year before,
Elsie Taveras, executive director of the Kraft Center, said that six people die of opioid overdoses every day in Massachusetts. That’s about 2,200 preventable deaths per year.
Taveras said that pretty much everyone in Brockton is within 1 mile of a clinic where they can get help for substance abuse. The problem is getting people to come in. “People are not accessing these services because they feel stigmatized,” she said.
The mobile clinic will be set up at known overdose hot spots throughout the city, making it easier for people who need help to just walk in. Taveras said the Boston mobile unit has served about 10,000 people over the past three years.
The Brockton mobile clinic is still awaiting final approval from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Once approved, it will offer substance abuse services four days a week. Taveras said that it may also be used one day a week to conduct COVID-19 tests and administer vaccines.
“This is going to save lives in Brockton,” said Mayor Robert Sullivan. “This is going to be a game changer, a lifesaver.”
The Kraft Center is planning to launch similar mobile clinics in Worcester and Springfield.
Hiawatha Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.