STATE REP RACE Q&A: Mark Kratman Discusses Economic Development, Opioid Epidemic

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple is asking weekly questions to the seven candidates running in contested primaries for the Wilmington/Tewksbury State Representative seat (19th Middlesex).

Below, in his own words, are the responses to this week’s questions from candidate Mark Kratman (D-Tewksbury).

#7) What will you do as State Representative to help individuals and families in Tewksbury, Wilmington and beyond who are struggling as a result of the opioid epidemic? 

The opioid epidemic is not only affecting just our communities but all communities across Massachusetts and our nation. In 2010, there were 560 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts and the numbers continues to rise at an alarming rate. In 2016 & 2017, the number of confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths was well over 2000. In just the first 3 months of 2018, there are 201 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths and unless we take real action this epidemic will continue to take the lives of our children and loved ones.

The current rehab facilities are not working and we lack affordable and quality long-term recovery centers in our area. I have been on the Board of Directors to the East Boston Community Development Corporation for over 30 years. Not only do we help build and maintain senior housing so that people can afford to stay in the community that they grew up in but we also funded the opening of the Meridian House in East Boston which is a 30 bed, coed therapeutic community serving an adult population 18 and over. Meridian House is considered to be a High Intensity Residential Service. The program provides behavior modification treatment for individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders.

There is a local non-profit organization called Into Action Recovery, Inc. It was founded in Tewksbury in 2015 by a group of concerned parents, family members, citizens, and recovering addicts, motivated to stop the vicious cycle of recovery and relapse. They want people to have a place to go when they are out of rehab but still recovering from the addiction. They envision purchasing a large home with many bedrooms and bathrooms, where they could offer those in recovery a highly structured program of support and participant responsibilities. The group’s approach is modeled on the widespread success of other similar programs, as well as interface and input from many sources. I attend each meeting that I can and totally support their efforts.

The stigma surrounding this disease must change. I know way too many good families who have their children to this horrendous disease and we must work together as a community to win this battle. Our police, fire and other emergency workers are stretching their budgets to the limits and putting their lives at risk as well not knowing what types of drugs they are coming in contact with.

The pharmaceuticals companies must be held liable for their actions. Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP, accusing the OxyContin maker of illegally promoting the use of opioids, and became the first state to sue the drugmaker’s executives and directors to hold them responsible as well. The lawsuit, brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, alleges that Purdue deceived doctors and patients by misrepresenting the risks of addiction and death associated with the prolonged use of its prescription opioids. In 2007, Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties. That year, Purdue also reached a $19.5 million settlement with 26 states, including Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. But Healey’s office alleges Purdue continued deceptively marketing opioids after 2007. Tewksbury has signed on to the list of City And Towns to join this lawsuit and I encourage Wilmington to do the same. The much needed funds that have been spent by our communities fighting this epidemic should be returned to our Towns and go to the programs that they we meant for.

#8a) What will you do as State Representative to help attract and maintain small and large businesses in Wilmington and Tewksbury? Do you consider yourself a business-friendly candidate? Why?

Currently not only am I a Selectman in the Town of Tewksbury, but I am also Chair of our Economic Development Committee in Tewksbury. I am constantly meeting with business owners in my town to get their input and help them prosper in our communities. I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Wilmington/Tewksbury Chamber of Commerce. Tewksbury and Wilmington have many of the same problems. Traffic flow is at a standstill on Route 38 and without infrastructure improvements it makes it very difficult for residents and visitors to get to the local businesses to buy their goods. We pay a lot of taxes in this State and it is about time that funding is returned to our community to in the way significant transportation improvements. There are many bottlenecks that could easily be taken care of by either widening the intersections or adding additions turning lanes. As a State Representative I would fight to bring the much needed funding back to our communities and continue to work with local leaders to promote smart growth in our towns. We cannot continue to build without a plan on how it is going to affect the daily lives of the residents who have lived here and made this their home. I am all in favor of business but there must be a plan on how we all can work and live in harmony.

BONUS FUN QUESTION: Wilmington Town Meeting voters recently banned plastic bags at grocery and retail stores, due – in large part – to their negative effects to the environment. The ban goes into effect in May 2019.  Do you agree with Wilmington voters and would you like Tewksbury voters to do the same this fall at their Special Town Meeting?

The voters in Wilmington have spoken and I totally support their decision. There is no reason that we cannot just bring reusable bags to the grocery store while shopping. We have had our own problem in Tewksbury as the residents have been mistakenly putting the plastic bags in our recycle bins to be picked up. Plastic bags from the stores are not recyclable and must be put in the trash that just adds to more debris going to our landfills. As a proud member of the Tewksbury Beautification Committee I can tell you that we pick up many of the bags when we are volunteering twice a year on clean up days. It may be inconvenient at first but the cost of trash removal continues to rise and by using reusable bags each time we shop we can not only lower the cost associated with trash removal but also make our towns a responsible green community.

(NOTE: Do you have a question for the candidates? Email and it may be asked in a future Q&A or in a debate.)

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