BOSTON - The man leading the new addiction center at Boston Medical Center knows the trouble of being an addict all too well.
“I came from a family with a history of addiction like many people,” said Michael Botticelli.
Fighting the opioid epidemic in Boston is no easy task, but Botticelli has the resume to take it on.
Botticelli headed up the Massachusetts Department Public of Health before President Obama appointed him to be his so-called "drug czar."
This spring, he returned to Boston to lead the brand new Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at BMC.
His mission is to identify gaps in the hospital's approach and care.
“Not only on the medical side, but also things like unstable housing, or lack of employment opportunities,” he told Boston 25 News’ Heather Hegedus.
Botticelli says while Massachusetts is doing a better job than most at treating the crisis as a health issue, the state can do a better job identifying people who are at-risk.
“I always think there's an individual story behind each of those folks,” he said.
Last week, President Donald Trump declared the opioid problem a national emergency.
Botticelli says the attention is good, but words alone are not enough.
“I think that's helpful to shine a spotlight on the issue, but if that's not backed up with actions and resources, it really is I think going to be meaningless, quite honestly,” he said.
One of Botticelli’s driving reasons behind his passion to those struggling with addiction is he knows what’s it like from firsthand experience.
He's open about the fact he struggled with alcoholism before a drunk driving crash, which caused him to make personal changes.
Botticelli refers to the struggling faces on Methadone Mile, a term he'd liked to see changed to "Recovery Road," as “his people."
He thinks they hold the key to unlocking a solution to end this epidemic, once and for all.
“I do feel like if anyone's going to get this right, Massachusetts is going to get this right - and we have to get it right,” he said.
The Grayken Center was made possible by a $25 million grant by the Grayken family. The goal is to develop new models of care that can then be replicated nationally.
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