After Boston, Worcester is the second most populous city in New England, and it’s located in Central Massachusetts. Worcester is the namesake and county seat of Worcester County.
Factors that often influence drug use and risk for addiction include poverty, unemployment, mental health status, violence, and education, and many of things affect Worcester residents. The 2015 Worcester Community Health Assessment (CHA) publishes that a lower percentage of Worcester residents graduate from high school than average state rates indicate, as 84.3% of Worcester residents graduated from high school compared to a Massachusetts state average of 89.4%. The percentage of residents living below the federal poverty level (FPL) is double in Worcester over state rates, as 20% of Worcester residents live in poverty as opposed to a state average of 11%.
Almost one-quarter of Worcester residents received support in the form of public assistance, which is also close to twice the average rate for the state. Unemployment rates are high in Worcester, too, at 7% versus a state rate of 5.8%. Almost one out of every 10 residents of Worcester reported feeling limited due to poor mental or physical health at least 15 days during the month prior to the survey.
Poor mental health, low education and poverty, and a stressful environment can all contribute to drug use and addiction. Fortunately, there are many resources and community-based programs to aid in drug abuse prevention, rehab and addiction treatment, and life improvement in the city of Worcester and the surrounding area.
High Crime and Drug Abuse in Worcester
Environmental factors can play into drug abuse rates and risk for addiction. Not feeling safe in one’s neighborhood can lead to increased stress, for example. Peer pressure, violence, and crime can all influence drug use and abuse, too.
Crime rates are very high in the city of Worcester with violent crime rates doubling state averages. In 2011, the rate of violent crimes in Worcester was 988 per 100,000 population compared to a state average rate of 483 per 100,000 population, according to the 2015 CHA. All crime rates are higher in Worcester than state averages suggest, including violent crimes, property crimes, and crimes against people. Drugs and crime are often related to each other, and each can contribute to the other. The Worcester Police Department’s Neighborhood Response Team is trying to improve the crime rate and get people struggling with drug use into treatment programs, off the streets, and out of jail, Mass Live publishes.
A program in Worcester called the Buyer Diversion Treatment Alternative also attempts to divert eligible people caught illegally buying narcotics into rehab programs instead of arresting them, Wbur explains. The program is one of the first of its kind in the United States.
The Honorable Milton Ralphaeson Recovery Court is a drug court in Worcester that was established in spring 2016, offering nonviolent offenders arrested on drug-related charges the opportunity to go through a mandated treatment program instead of going to prison, as published by the Telegram. This program acts as a kind of probation while participants undergo treatment, and graduates often end sober with a lessened or dropped sentence. Massachusetts has several specialty courts to help people battling addiction and/or mental health concerns to get the professional help they need.
Drug and Alcohol Use in Worcester, MA
Alcohol is a commonly used substance in Worcester. The rate for treatment admissions listing alcohol as the primary substance of abuse were higher than state rates at 683 admissions per 100,000 people versus 507 statewide treatment admissions per 100,000 people, the 2015 CHA publishes. Nearly one-quarter of Worcester adults considered themselves to be current smokers, which is much higher than the state average of just over 16% of residents.
Treatment admissions for adults in Worcester reporting heroin as the primary substance of abuse were also much higher than statewide averages: 1,703 Worcester treatment admissions per 100,000 people versus a state rate of 791 per 100,000 population. Lifetime heroin use in Worcester is double national and state averages at 5% of the population reporting use of the illegal drug, Go Local Worcester reports.
Opioid overdoses are a public health issue in both the state of Massachusetts and the city of Worcester. In 2017, there were 70 confirmed overdose deaths related to heroin or opioids and 1,238 calls to 911 for overdoses of any drug – an increase of 7%, the Telegram publishes. Two-thirds of all overdose fatalities in Worcester were men with an average age of 37, and more than half of them were white.
Marijuana is legal in the state of Massachusetts, Business Insider reports, making it a common drug of use in the area as well. The New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NE HIDTA) reports that cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and controlled prescription drugs are all considered major drug threats in the region, which includes Worcester County, Massachusetts.
Getting Help for Addiction in Worcester
In Massachusetts, the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS) manages the system of care throughout the state overseeing drug abuse and addiction prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services. BSAS licenses treatment providers; provides funding for treatment, prevention, and recovery services; helps people without insurance or financial stability gain access to treatment; tracks substance abuse rates in the state; and develops programs and policies related to drug and alcohol abuse.
Care is provided on a local level by state-regulated and licensed treatment providers. The Massachusetts Substance Abuse Helpline aids residents in finding local treatment providers either through a confidential and free phone call or via an online interactive survey.
The City of Worcester Department of Public Health is the only accredited multijurisdictional health department in the United States. They provide a directory of substance use disorder services within the city for its residents. Worcester has three community health centers (CHCs) for residents to choose from for public treatment programs: Community Healthlink (CHL), the Family Health Center of Worcester, and the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center. To find state-regulated programs, residents of Worcester can also use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s (SAMHSA) Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
Public programs tend to give priority to pregnant women, families, and those in immediate crisis and may have a waiting list to get in. Private rehab facilities may have more immediate availability.
Rehab services are provided through public, nonprofit, and private providers, all of which can offer the following services:
- Crisis management
- Intervention services
- Case management
- Individual, group, and family counseling
- Behavioral therapies
- Life skills training[/vc_column]
- Relapse prevention
- Co-occurring disorders treatment
- Educational programs
- Transitional services
- Support groups
- Medication management
- Aftercare and recovery support services
Preventative efforts are offered on both a statewide and local community basis. BSAS publishes a Prevention Programs Directory that provides information on substance abuse prevention grants, programs, and agencies in Massachusetts. The Office of the Worcester County District Attorney also provides a list of opioid task force community prevention programs and contact information. Many local community-based providers and coalitions offer preventative services and educational programs for the public as well.
The Central Massachusetts Regional Public Health Alliance (CMRPHA) serves the Worcester community to improve the quality of life of its residents, and the alliance strives to promote a healthy city. In a further effort to reduce prescription drug abuse, there are multiple prescription drop box locations throughout the city of Worcester where residents can safely dispose of unwanted and unused prescription medications with no questions asked.
In Massachusetts, individuals fearing an overdose can also obtain a prescription for the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone or go to any local pharmacy and obtain it; Mass.gov provides information on how to do so. The Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) Program also provides a directory on where and how to obtain naloxone in Massachusetts and Worcester.
Recovery support is important, and there are several organizations and community-based groups serving the community and people of Worcester, Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR) seeks to educate the public on drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, lower stigma surrounding the disease, and support individuals in recovery. A nonprofit support network for family members and loves ones of someone battling addiction involving opiates or other drugs, Learn to Cope provides educational opportunities and a host of resources.
Recovery support is also offered by the Everyday Miracles Peer Recovery Support Center in Worcester, which is funded by BSAS. It is recovery-oriented, providing peer-to-peer support. Another peer support program, Central Massachusetts Area Narcotics Anonymous (NA) has local 12-Step group meetings offering sober fellowship and drug addiction recovery support.
Overall, Worcester has a wide range of prevention, treatment, and recovery support options to aid residents in sustaining a long and healthy recovery.