There are many reasons to feel overwhelmed by the current state of the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. However, there are also more reasons developing to feel hope for change. In addition to increased efforts by the Commonwealth to treat substance use disorder and support recovery, individuals in communities across the state are recognizing their power at the local level. People are coming together to address the suffering that addiction has brought to their families, neighbors, and communities. They are working locally to help others access treatment and recovery services, break down the stigma around addiction, and save lives, one by one. What are the keys to making change despite such an uphill battle? Listening and collaboration.
Walls are coming down and people are working together: law enforcement, court services, the recovery community, faith leaders, public health and human services workers, and more. By sitting down and listening to one another, communities have developed effective, creative approaches to meet their needs. Cross-community collaboration has also been an important part of fighting this epidemic. There is no competition here—communities are sharing information, ideas, and strategies. They are learning as they go by sharing what is working and what needs to change.
Most people involved in this work have been touched by this crisis. There is a feeling of urgency and for many, it is very personal. Parents or grandparents who have lost children are now organizing and volunteering at opioid drop-in centers. EMT’s who treat overdose after overdose are following up with police and faith leaders to visit the homes of those who’ve overdosed. Faith leaders are connecting with health commissions to educate their community about how to use Narcan. Police departments are working with public health professionals to develop a system to communicate across towns and cities to be sure that no one who overdoses—or their family members—slips through the cracks.
Kathy Leonard from Marlborough has found new purpose and healing through her activism. After losing her son to an overdose, she has become active in a local substance abuse coalition, organizes the International Overdose Awareness Day event for the city of Marlborough and, with the help of others, has started MetroWest HOPE (Help, Outreach, Prevention and Education), a drop-in center to help guide those suffering from and affected by addiction to resources and support. The goal is that when people walk out the door, they have information, some next steps, and a feeling that they have support. Although she’s done none of this alone, it is because of people like Kathy that real change is happening on the ground.
In this blog series, we will talk about more of the places we are finding hope. Action is happening on many levels and in all corners of the state. If you want information about how to get active in your community, call The Helpline at 800.327.5050. And as always, you can call the Helpline at 800.327.5050 to find treatment options and services to support recovery.