Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, like most of the New England area, has specific challenges regarding substance abuse. Crime and mortality rates in the state are adversely affected by substance abuse and other mental illnesses. The growing problems caused by drug addiction and other mental health issues mean that most people, whether or not they abuse drugs themselves, are affected by this problem, and many people are in need of treatment but don’t get it.

Getting treatment for those who need it is the first step in dealing with these problems. When a person is ready to seek substance abuse treatment, they must know what options are available in the state. Understanding how addiction affects everyone, what kinds of treatment are available, and how to provide positive treatment outcomes can help the people of Massachusetts get the help they need for themselves or their loved ones.

Addiction and Treatment in Massachusetts

Substance abuse treatment is managed through the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, which is part of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Other mental health issues, however, are handled through a different organization: the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. This organization is also involved in certain areas of substance abuse treatment policy and practice within the Commonwealth.

Because of the substance abuse issues facing the state, it is committed to providing certified and effective services across Massachusetts. The bureau funds multiple programs aimed at adults and youth for prevention and treatment; it also funds community health centers and treatment beds to help manage the Commonwealth’s treatment needs.

massachusetts drug stats facts and data

Laying out the Facts

Understanding the treatment services available within the state can help those who are seeking drug treatment services to head in the right direction from the start. Facts and figures about addiction challenges, treatment practices and facilities, and the toll that addiction takes on individuals and the state’s residents help to paint a full picture of the treatment landscape in Massachusetts.

Types of Treatment Centers Available

According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, Massachusetts has a total of 328 treatment facilities, categorized as follows:

  • Private, nonprofit: 258
  • Private, for-profit: 55
  • Local, county, or community government: 6
  • State-run: 4
  • Federal: 5 (three Veterans Administration, one Department of Defense, and one other)
Types of Treatment Centers Available in Massachusetts

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness in Massachusetts

According to a report from the Office of the President of the United States, Massachusetts ranks in the top 10 states in the country for four categories of general substance abuse and addiction:

  • Past-month illicit drug use among young adults 18-25
  • Past-month marijuana use among young adults 18-25
drug use in Massachusetts
  • Illicit drug dependence among people 12 and older
  • Illicit drug dependence among young adults 18-25

More than 13 percent of people 12 and older used illicit drugs within the past month, according to the National Survey of Drug Abuse and Health; the national average is about 10 percent. Marijuana use also exceeds the national average, with 11.75 percent of people in Massachusetts using it as compared with only 8.4 percent across the nation.

As with many states in New England, heroin is the primary drug of abuse cited in drug treatment admissions in Massachusetts.

Deaths Due to Drug Abuse or Mental Illness

According to the report from the Office of the President, Massachusetts exceeds the national average in terms of the number of people who experience drug-induced death. In opioid use alone, estimates from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are that more than 1,000 people died deaths from drug abuse in MA in 2014 of accidental overdose. This represents a 33 percent increase from just two years prior.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides data indicating that the rate of drug-related deaths in Massachusetts, primarily fueled by opioid-related deaths, has increased by a statistically significant amount.

Crime Rates for Drug Abuse and Mental Illness

Data from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections shows that, for men in the Commonwealth, drug-related offenses constitute 16 percent of the sentenced population. For women, it’s 19 percent.

The most recent data provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness states that about 2,400 people in prisons in Massachusetts are dealing with some form of mental illness.

Reducing Drug-Related Criminality, Increasing Treatment

According to the Boston Lawyer Blog, up until 2016, people in Massachusetts who were found to be addicted to drugs or alcohol were committed to a correctional facility if a public treatment facility wasn’t available, which was most of the time. This is still true for men, who are sent to a minimum-security facility and receive treatment. Women, on the other hand, were sent to the highest security women’s correctional facility in the state.

A law recently enacted has changed this for women in the state, who are now given more chances to enter treatment. It is much more difficult for them to be civilly committed for addiction. This law will hopefully help in increasing treatment provisions and decreasing the effect of the nationwide heroin epidemic in the Commonwealth.

Legal Issues for Treatment

According to the Massachusetts Department of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts required insurance carriers to cover at least the first 14 days of medically necessary treatment; whether or not treatment is medically necessary is to be determined by the treating clinician upon consulting with the patient.

The same is true for regular treatment services, as long as they are given by a provider that is licensed in the Commonwealth. In other words,

insurance plans in Massachusetts must cover drug treatment services, from early intervention through outpatient and inpatient treatment programs.

According to the Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline, the Commonwealth is working particularly hard to prevent nonmedical use of prescription drugs through a unique opioid prescription limit program, which caps first-time prescriptions for adults and minors to seven days. Doctors who prescribe opioids must undergo continuing education and consult a database before providing prescription opioids to patients.

As mentioned, other laws regarding addiction include a prohibition on civil commitment of women with substance abuse disorders to correctional facilities. These women are instead committed to facilities recommended by the Department of Mental Health.

Nonprofit and Government Treatment Resources

Government Treatment Resources
The state of Massachusetts provides a Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline website and phone number to help people learn more about addiction and find statewide treatment options. Their service locator can help residents of Massachusetts find local services in each of six state regions:

  • Western MA
  • Central MA
  • Metro West
  • North East
  • Boston
  • South East

The Bureau of Substance Abuse Services also provides a listing of appropriately licensed programs and treatment professionals, which can be searched by town or city.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides a directory of a wide range of treatment centers and services throughout the Commonwealth.