For most of his career, Jay Tankanow, LSW, has worked in the human services field, first as an emergency medical technician and then as a social worker for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health running dual diagnosis programs dealing with mental illness and addiction therapy. He has also been a consumer advocate in campaigns promoting patient safety through use of drugs, like Narcan, which can help prevent deaths due to opiate overdoses.
This is Jay’s story:
“Ten years ago, after my mother died, I became homeless. I struggled with addictions and went into treatment, becoming a member of Narcotics Anonymous. As I grew in recovery, I started bringing NA members to correctional facilities, detox centers, and numerous agencies talking about addiction. I also found my way to Boston Health Care for the Homeless.
“I have been involved with the Boston Consumer Advisory Board for eight years and have worked on numerous policy projects, some of which were national in scope. Currently, I am working on a new bill in Massachusetts to change the Narcan program. Narcan is a potentially lifesaving drug that can be used to counteract the effects of narcotic overdoses, which kill too many people experiencing homelessness. The new bill requires all programs to have Narcan present if they support consumers who are fighting addiction and all staff of those programs to be trained on how to administer the drug. The bill also proposes to educate homeless people about the use of Narcan and other harm reduction measures.
“Massachusetts has led the way legislatively by requiring providers to include Narcan when prescribing opiates and Boston Health Care for the Homeless has followed along with this policy. Through the Boston HCH CAB, I am also supporting other efforts to reduce medical emergencies as a result of prescription abuse. I am hopeful that my work on these measures will help in bringing down hospital costs and saving lives.”