By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Erin Holmes travelled weekly from her Hudson home to Learn to Cope meetings in Worcester while her son Matthew struggled with heroin addiction and pursued recovery. A 2011 Hudson High School alum and Army veteran, Matthew relapsed after a long-term recovery and passed away at age 22 this past January. Now, it’s easier for local families to get help during difficult times because his mother founded a Learn to Cope chapter in Hudson.
Learn to Cope is a peer-led support network for families dealing with addiction and recovery. Holmes became aware of the Taunton-based nonprofit organization when she heard a radio interview with its founder and executive director, Joanne Peterson.
“As soon as I heard her speak, it really connected with me because of what we were going through with my son,” Holmes said. “I decided that’s where I should go and check it out.”
The closest chapters to Hudson are in Framingham and Worcester. Now including Hudson, there are 25 chapters in Massachusetts and a few in other states. Holmes felt that the first 90-minutes meeting she attended was valuable and worth the weekly commute.
“I got educated more in that hour and a half than I could searching on the Internet for months,” she said. “These people know what I’m going through and I didn’t feel like my kid was a loser. They were in the same situation as me.”
A few months after her son passed away, Holmes approached Learn to Cope about starting a Hudson chapter. Next, she met with and got support from Sam Wong, director of public and community health services in Hudson. She spoke about a new chapter beginning locally in a short documentary on the heroin epidemic titled “Faces of the Solution,” which premiered on public-access HudTV in August.
“Learn to Cope is going to allow these parents to open up,” she explained. “When you go to these meetings for the first time, you don’t want to talk about it to anybody. This is a comfortable environment where you can. There’s real answers and real help for you as a family. It’s the whole family that goes through it, not just the addict.”
Also in August, the local chapter hosted a public informational session. In addition to Wong, attendees included Karen Freker, district coordinator for state Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow. The first closed, facilitated meeting was held in September with 18 family members of addicts attending.
The Hudson chapter is open to families from other communities. Holmes went to neighboring communities and visited courts, police stations, hospitals and schools to let them know about the new chapter. Every meeting in Massachusetts offers training for Narcan, a medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose.
“A family member will most likely be the first responder,” Holmes noted. “Education is key; the more you know about what an addict is going through, the better you can help them. I’m hoping this will be a platform for these parents to feel comfortable. They don’t need to speak. They can come in and just listen, and know that they’re not alone.”
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 17, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Hudson Senior Center, 29 Church St. Guest speakers are planned for future meetings.
“We’re hoping to meet weekly beginning in November,” Holmes added. “It depends on the turnout in October.”
For more information, contact Erin Holmes at [email protected], call 508-738-5148, and visit www.learn2cope.org and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LTCHope. View “Faces of the Solution” at www.vimeo.com/178919869.