Press Releases

Congresswoman Lori Trahan Hosts Dr. James Baker of MA3 At Bipartisan Freshman Working Group on Addiction Policy Breakfast

Washington, DC – Today, at the invitation of Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) Dr. James Baker, who practices medicine in Massachusetts’ Third Congressional District, presented to Members of the Bipartisan Freshman Working Group on Addiction at their July policy breakfast. 

The Freshman Working Group on Addiction, of which Rep. Trahan is a founding member, aims to capitalize on the new blood and energy of the 116th Congress to come together to understand the extent of the impacts of addiction and to jointly promote policies to reduce overdoses and deaths.

“Dr. Baker has dedicated his life to making sure that no other family goes through the pain and anguish that his family has gone through since he lost his son, Max, who fell victim to opioid addiction. His advocacy has made me a better policy maker and has directly influenced legislation I have introduced to require future prescribers to learn safe opioid prescription practices. It was a great honor to host Dr. Baker to Washington, DC so that he could engage with my colleagues and me. We are in a better position to bring about effective policy prescriptions because of his personal story and medical insight,” said Rep. Trahan. 

“I believe that Congresswoman Trahan's compassion, dedication, and profound insight into this terrible epidemic will lead to meaningful change as she leads the way forward with new and more effective policies. I told Ms. Trahan and her colleagues today about my son Max's journey through addiction, recovery, and ultimate death following a sudden relapse after surgery. I shared with her that I promised him I would continue to fight on with the goal of saving others from this tragic fate. I told Ms. Trahan this fact that I think helps all of us understand the enormity of the opioid crisis today. More Americans have died from drug overdose in less than twenty years than the number of  Americans who died in battle in every war we have ever fought since the founding of our nation.  This includes both sides in the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East, combined. My goal is to work with Congresswoman Trahan and other Members of Congress to help as much as I can to change the course of this epidemic,” said Dr. Baker , M.D., M.P.H. 

Dr. Baker presents to Members of the Bipartisian Working Group on Addiction and their staff at the US Capitol on Thursday, July 18, 2019.

Original photo files available upon request.  

Dr. Baker was featured on PBS Newshour in 2017 and his son Max’s story was highlighted in a WGBH piece that year as well.

Dr. Baker was joined by Dr. Travis Rieder, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, who discussed the dependence he developed on opioids following a motorcycle accident, and his own painful experience in going through withdrawal. Both Dr. Rieder and Dr. Baker offered some recommendations for policymakers based on their experiences.

Biography: James L. Baker, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. James Baker served at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School as faculty in emergency medicine and is now affiliated with UMass Medical School.  While at Hopkins, he received his Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology as a Mellon Foundation Scholar.  Dr. Baker also completed a Fellowship through Harvard Medical School at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Mass General Hospital in Pain and Palliative Care.  Since then he has cared for thousands of patients with terminal illness and their families and continues to provide end-of-life care at Merrimack Valley Hospice (in Rep. Trahan’s 3rd Congressional District).  Dr. Baker also served in the U.S. Army with service in Vietnam during 1972 and 1973.  

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic he performed HIV related research at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and then served as leader of the Physician Review Group for the Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic, assisting with policy recommendations to the President.

Sadly, Dr. Baker’s youngest son, Max, began experimenting with drugs as an adolescent and became addicted to heroin at 17.  Max later found recovery with the help of medication assisted therapy but suffered multiple injuries in a car accident in late 2016, and died on December 28, 2016, at the age of 23 from an overdose when he relapsed following surgery.  

Since his son’s death, Dr. Baker has dedicated himself to preventing addiction and overdose through teaching, writing, and advocacy.  He also serves as a physician consultant every week to the newly formed Massachusetts Consultation Service for the Treatment of Addiction and Pain (MCSTAP), a state funded service that provides guidance, free of charge, to all physicians and nurses in Massachusetts who care for patients with addiction or complex pain.