As the opioid crisis takes its toll on the Commonwealth, I want to speak to the residents of Everett about how the City is making a great effort to curb this abuse. I am proud of the progress we have made. But we can’t stop here. We will continue to work to help provide solutions to issues that plague our neighborhoods. There is not one person who is untouched by opioid abuse; we all have a family member, friend or acquaintance who has been affected by it. I understand how grave this issue is and I am committed to providing the most possible resources and developing the best strategies to help those struggling with addiction.
The City of Everett has been working closely with the Everett Public Schools to establish a well-rounded drug prevention program for the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community. In addition to supporting substance abuse education in our school system, the City of Everett has partnered with Cambridge Health Alliance and the Everett Community Partnership – Substance Coalition to address the problem while promoting positive health and well-being. This coalition includes some of the brightest minds from the City of Everett, the Everett Police and Fire Departments, the Joint Committee for Children’s Health Care in Everett and For Kids Only – people who are passionate about helping the City.
Unfortunately, many opioid abuse victims are young. We recognize this and are aggressively combating the risks and temptations that our youth face. Thanks to the effort of the Everett Public Schools, our students are actively engaged in drug prevention initiatives. A number of students recently had the opportunity to attend a program with the Mark Wahlberg Foundation about If Only, a film that addresses the harmful effects of substance abuse. A similarly impactful movie, Anonymous People, will be shown to students at Everett High School. The group Teens in Everett against Substance Abuse (TEASA) hosts a number of events each year to increase awareness in the community. These young adults are a significant presence in our City and a positive influence to their peers. They promote informational public service announcements, hold awareness demonstrations, attend City meetings and events, collaborate with other local health organizations and more. I am proud of how our youth care deeply about this issue and have been working diligently to inform their peers about the damaging nature of drugs.
Opiate addiction doesn’t discriminate. It is not only affecting our youth, but residents of all ages and backgrounds. The City has held a number of meetings and events over the past several months to bring light to the problem of opioid abuse and offer support to users. We recently partnered with the Cambridge Health Alliance and local organization Everett Overcoming Addiction, and held the first city-wide Substance Abuse Education Forum at the Connolly Center. The night was dedicated to educating residents on how to deal with substance abuse and where to find the necessary resources.
September is National Recovery month, and in the coming weeks I have scheduled meetings with local agencies to review the status of the epidemic and how effective our prevention methods have been. Events will take place across the city, including an installation at Everett’s Paris Street Art Gallery on September 25th, where artwork on the theme of recovery will be displayed, as well as a City sponsored Take Back Drug Day on September 26th. And our own Everett-based coalition ECHP-SAC continues to attend community events such as the Farmers’ Market, city festivals, school nights and more in order to promote awareness. It is my hope that these events will further illuminate this pressing issue and encourage more residents to commit themselves to ending this crisis.
We also have a number of resources that are available throughout the year. The City of Everett is working with the Everett Fire Department to create a resource packet for first responders to give to clients and family members. I encourage residents to visit our website, www.cityofeverett.com to find links to helpful organizations, health care providers, prevention specialists and other resources. For anyone interested, there is also a Well-Being of Everett book published in 2014, located in the Everett Health Department, that covers all health and wellness issues impacting the City.
In addition to fostering and increasing Everett’s internal events and resources, I have also reached out to our neighboring communities to work cooperatively in the fight against substance abuse. The City of Everett has met with Cambridge, Watertown and Somerville as a part of Governor Baker’s Mass Opiate Abuse Prevention Coalition to discuss ideas on opioid prevention. We have partnered with Cambridge in order to offer our Everett residents struggling with addiction the opportunity to attend Cambridge’s Learn to Cope meetings.
Through different methods of prevention Emergency Service Personnel across the state have provided tremendous support to users in there own communities and have become positive examples for others. Some of these communities not only mail informational packets to recently saved overdose victims, but they visit them at their homes, as part of an outreach effort. For users, the battle is not over once they are saved. It takes time, effort and support to fully recover and fight off the addiction, an addiction that caused over 1,000 deaths last year in Massachusetts alone. I want to see Everett implement programs such as these. It should be our goal as community leaders to be able to provide more beds, resources, and programs that will save and educate those who might relapse.
It is time for opioid abuse to stop in Everett. We have seen the destructive force drugs can be in our City and we will no longer tolerate it. We must all come together to help our loved ones struggling with addiction. Please join me in this fight.