New Report Outlines State of Substance Use on Cape Cod

HYANNIS – A Barnstable County official gave insight on a new report that outlines the state of substance use on Cape Cod.

Deputy Director of Human Services Mandi Speakman said that a main take away from the county’s updated Substance Use Assessment was identifying the barriers to help people struggling with substance use face when seeking care. 

Transportation, isolation, and housing were all listed as significant obstacles on a local scale. 

Participants interviewed for the report said there’s a need for more transitional and low-barrier housing for people who are homeless, leaving jail, or coming out of treatment

Speakman said that housing challenge can impede recovery.

“People often become reincarcerated or may be forced to live in unsafe conditions where other residents might be actively using substances,” she said. 

The report also referenced limiting factors for treatment, with cost and the number of available facilities cited as major concerns. 

“There’s a lack of beds, there’s a lack of affordability, and there’s a lack of access for people who don’t have insurance,” Speakman said. 

Participants said that long-term treatment options tailored for younger people, women with young children, and people exiting jail were all needed in the area. 

The report featured data stating the cost of substance use services in Barnstable County is $48 million, with $45 million spent on treatment. A little over $1 million is being spent on prevention.

Speakman said that expanded prevention services for kids should be holistic and consistent. That includes addressing co-occurring mental health and substance use issues and providing healthy outlets for children and teens. 

Speakman said some non-traditional prevention approaches could include creating more opportunities for people with lived experience to share their stories with young people. 

“It can’t be a one-and-done. There needs to be some sort of ongoing feature for this kind of approach,” she said. 

The report also covered harm reduction services that engage with people who use substances to prevent overdoses and the transmission of infectious diseases.

Speakman said an example of a local program is the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod’s mobile outreach van that provides Narcan and syringe services.

Speakman highlighted the contributions of Substance Use Prevention Program Manager Kate Lena in prioritizing harm reduction services.  

Some participants featured in the assessment said the programs  have been “life-saving” but that there can be misconceptions surrounding them, which leads to stigmas. 

With towns throughout the Cape starting to see money from opioid settlements, Speakman said that some local agencies may join resources. 

“What we’re hearing is that there really is serious consideration to pooling funds to maximize and perhaps create sustainable impacts.” 

The county’s Regional Substance Addiction Council has provided recommendations to  lawmakers on ways to use the money that address the needs of people in the area.

The updated assessment used community perspective and data when making its findings. RSAC will use the report to help craft a 3-5 year plan to address substance use locally.

RSAC meetings take place the first Thursday of each month at 3pm. The meetings are open to the public and take place virtually

By Brian Engles, NewsCenter

About Brian Engles

Brian Engles is a longtime local of the Cape. He studied Film & TV at Boston University and in addition to his role at Cape Cod Broadcasting Media, he also works as a music instructor and records original songs.
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