Tackling Substance Use
Like other communities across the state and country, Cape Cod has experienced a dramatic increase in heroin and opiate use and mortality from overdose over the last few years. According to Barnstable County’s Department of Human Services’ March 2015 report “Analysis of Substance Use on Cape Cod: A Baseline Assessment,” 14% of Cape Cod residents live with substance abuse disorder; 51.28% of residents struggling with addiction use alcohol as their primary substance, while 19.36% use heroin and other opiates as their primary substance. In 2013 the estimated number of persons addicted to alcohol on Cape Cod (17,063, or 7.9% of the population) outnumbers that of all other substances combined.
In 2013, the estimated annual direct cost of substance use in Barnstable County was over $110 million. Direct costs are those costs that are identifiable as being a direct result of substance use activity on Cape Cod (e.g. treatment, rehabilitation, arrests, incarceration, and prevention). However, annual expenditures on prevention and on community harm reduction were less than 1% each of the total direct costs spent on combating substance abuse in Barnstable County; 0.9% for prevention activities, and 0.6% for harm reduction.
Faced with this startling reality, many organizations and community members have banded together to develop regional, large-scale solutions. One such effort is the Regional Substance Abuse Council (RSAC), under Barnstable County’s Department of Human Services. The mission of the RSAC is to establish a communication infrastructure across towns, providers, organizations, and individuals on Cape Cod to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive regional approach across the continuum of prevention, treatment, intervention, and recovery. Through this coordinated network, our region is better able to identify and address gaps and disparities in the service system, maximize inter-agency collaboration and maximize funding and resource opportunities.