By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Tragedy struck Northborough in 2012 when an unintended opioid-related overdose death occurred, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). Worcester Country was the site of 137 such deaths in 2014 and 106 more in 2015 were reported by the office of Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr. Overall, over 1,200 Massachusetts residents died of a drug overdose over the last year.
To help educate the public and offer advice from experts, the Northborough/Southborough Community Awareness Forum will hold an event, “Opioid Use & Abuse: Addressing the Crisis,” on Monday, Jan. 25, from 6-8 p.m. at the Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS). There will be a resource table from 6-6:30 p.m. and a panel discussion and Q&A session from 6:30-8 p.m.
This event is sponsored by Central Massachusetts Opioid Task Force, which is run by Early’s office.
Tim Connolly, communication director for Early, said, “The (opioid) task force is studying what strategies work in other places, and what changes can be made here on a local level.”
Connolly said that the group includes pharmacists, elected officials, police chiefs, and staff from Spectrum, a substance abuse treatment program with a facility in Westborough. A representative from Learn to Cope, a support network for families impacted by opiate and other drug abuse, will also attend.
About the panel at Algonquin, Early commented, “This event is an attempt to raise awareness and encourage people to be more informed on this crisis. This heightened awareness can only lead us closer to a solution and give us all hope.”
Co-sponsors of the ARHS event include state representatives Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston; Harold Naughton, D-Clinton; and Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough; and state senators Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton and Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester.
“The opioid epidemic touches every community in the commonwealth. Sadly, statistics show that if you have not yet been touched directly by the crisis, you likely will be,” said Dykema.
“This forum will highlight effective prevention methods and give families some tools and information to recognize and address substance abuse problems when they do occur,” she added. “No one should feel like they are alone when trying to fight addiction.”
The panel at the Jan. 25 event will also include several specialists, according to Connolly.
Dr. Stephen Martin is a family practitioner at Barre Family Health Center in Barre, Mass., where he runs the center’s Office-Based Opiate Treatment Program. He is also an assistant professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Martin will speak about pain medications, and efforts for doctors to prescribe proper dosages.
Charles Faris, Spectrum president and CEO, will discuss the treatment of addicts. Spectrum has just expanded the number of beds available to the community, according to Connolly.
A representative from Learn to Cope will discuss the important work of this group.
A person in recovery will share his or her journey.
The Northborough and Southborough police departments have been invited, and may speak as well. Dykema said that she would join the panel.
A number of groups have been asked to join the resource tables.
“It is unclear at this time who will be there,” said Connolly, “but there will be lots of resources.”
For more information, contact Elisabeth Haddad (774-317-2158) or Jill Wooldridge (774-317-2127).