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    Feds give Mass. nearly $12 million to fight opioid abuse

    MEDFORD, MA - 4/25/2017 - Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks about the filing of an act relative to the harmful distribution of sexually explicit visual material at the Boston Latin Academy in MEDFORD, MA, April 25, 2017. (Keith Bedford/Globe Staff) mag_cat_trapper
    KEITH BEDFORD/GLOBE STAFF
    Governor Charlie Baker.

    Massachusetts has received an $11.7 million federal grant to fight opioid addiction, as the state continues to wrestle with an overdose epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives in recent years, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration said Tuesday.

    The grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will support a number of treatment and recovery programs, including initiatives to help at-risk women who are pregnant and inmates scheduled to be released, the administration said in a statement.

    People coming out of prison are at a far greater risk of opioid-related deaths than the general public, according to the release. The funds will also support overdose prevention initiatives.

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    “We are grateful for the opportunity to use these funds for prevention and treatment activities to address the opioid crisis that has devastated families in every corner of Massachusetts,” Baker said in the statement.

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    The grant comes as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, which the Obama administration signed into law in December.

    Marylou Sudders, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said the federal money will aid the state’s focus “on ending this epidemic, which has claimed far too many lives across our Commonwealth,” according to the release. “This new grant enables us to continue the fight and expand successful prevention, treatment and recovery programs throughout the state,” she said.

    As in many states, Massachusetts has been rocked by the opioid crisis in recent years, with more than 5,300 people dying from overdoses since 2013, according to statistics from the state Department of Public Health.

    Dr. Monica Bharel, the DPH commissioner, said the funding comes at “a critical time” for the state.

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    “Investing in prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery saves lives and this funding helps us in each of those areas,” Bharel said in the administration’s release.

    The leader of one community-based treatment provider said the funding has the potential to improve access to treatment.

    “It could be huge if it actually translated to having more treatment beds and options,” said Mark Kennard, whose program is affiliated with Bridgewell, a nonprofit human service provider.

    “It could not come at a better time,” said Kennard, whose organization runs treatment programs on the North Shore. “People are continuing to die at alarming rates because of these overdoses.”

    A lack of beds is a major barrier to providing treatment, he said.

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    When a person agrees that they want to begin the recovery process, the first order of business is to find a bed, but that process can be a difficult, frustrating one, Kennard said.

    ‘Investing in prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery saves lives.’

    “You won’t find a bed on Friday, but you might find one on Monday,” he said, “but often by the time you find a bed, the person is gone or uninterested.”

    Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen
    @globe.com
    . Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.