Opinion

July 29, 2015
By

It’s time we come together to combat the opiate crisis that has spread throughout our city and all over the Commonwealth. It’s time to tackle this issue head-on and come up with solutions to reduce opiate abuse and addiction. We need to help drug users beat their addiction, and ensure no family has to lose another loved one to this disease.

Drug abuse is a major issue and no city or town should feel ashamed to discuss it and confront it.  We won’t fix this epidemic by ignoring it.

I have seen first-hand what this disease can do to individuals and their families. From my job at a funeral home, I have seen several families devastated and grieving for loved ones who overdosed and died way too early.

Just a few months ago, a 17-year-old Everett boy overdosed and died. Brendon had his whole life ahead of him. He hoped one day to serve his country and give back to his community and his nation. Unfortunately, he didn’t have that chance.

Brendon’s family is fighting back.

They established Everett Overcoming Addiction, a grassroots community organization committed to spreading awareness and combating addiction in Everett. Their goal is “to not lose another loved one to addiction, to educate not only the addict, but their friends and families, so they know drug overdosing can be prevented. To have hope for future generations to make addiction a conquered disease.”

Their message is one that we all need to help spread to rid our city of this epidemic. But our city government should take action to further this goal too.

I welcome Police Chief Steven Mazzie’s recent acknowledgment that Everett Police will respect The Good Samaritan Law. This law, which was passed in 2007, prevents people using or possessing opiates from being arrested or prosecuted when reporting an overdose. This law will help prevent overdose deaths and will increase access to medical help. While this law is an important step to prevent overdose deaths, it doesn’t do much more than that. We need to prevent the overdoses from actually happening.

The City of Gloucester’s police department took the lead and has begun to take a different course in treating addicts. Many are calling it “the Angel program.” The program encourages those struggling with addiction to go to the police station, turn in their drugs, and get assigned a so-called “angel” — a person who would meet them at the nearest hospital and help guide them through what is often a complicated process of detoxing. However, the state and federal government needs to step up with some funding because there is not enough resources or beds for that matter to assist people trying to recover.

Everett can take several steps to help stop this epidemic. We need to hire a specific person or persons to work as substance abuse counselors. Perhaps they could be recovering addicts, so they can share their experiences and fellow-addicts can relate to them more easily. These counselors can act as a bridge between addicts and recovery and help guide them to treatment and sobriety. Being available at the police station will allow people to easily access them. Counselors should also be in collaboration with Everett’s schools and the guidance department, ensuring our children are aware about substance abuse and its deadly consequences.

There are other ways to fight the epidemic and we need to carefully examine what works best for Everett families. If elected to the Everett City Council, I will work with the administration and my colleagues to establish an advisory board in the city to explore these options and make suggestions that will allow us fight addiction smartly and proactively.