By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
When the Everett City Council voted last month to establish its own task force to address the opioid crisis in Everett, Committee chairman John Leo McKinnon said the committee would be a real working committee that would meet with the Board of health and Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s already established Opioid task Force and community groups like Everett Overcoming Addiction, to create real change in the way the city seeks to help residents struggling with addiction and their families.
Jaded City hall watchers may have wondered what the task force could actually do to help combat the disease, while other skeptics may have thought that the newly formed Opioid Crisis Committee would be nothing more than a public relations effort.
Such pessimism, it seems, is ill-placed.
Since establishing the committee in early February, McKinnon and the other councilors who comprise the committee, including Anthony DiPierro, Michael Mangan, Michael McLaughlin, have already been actively meeting with other organizations in the city to determine the best strategies for going forward, while also marking out actual ways they can help.
McKinnon, in fact, has worked with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and its subsidiary organization the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS) to bring thousands of addiction recovery kits, and information into the city, including through the health department, school department, and other service organizations.
The materials, which include a DVD of the “Stengthening Families Program” for families with children ages 7 to 17, pamphlets and brochures about how to talk to a family member struggling with opioid addiction and a youth and young adult addiction services directory, that is broken down by type of service (ie., outpatient or residential treatment) and region of the state. The materials are also bilingual.
“At this point we are just trying to get this information out to as many people as possible,” explained McKinnon. “We want to make sure that anyone in the city who is dealing with addiction or has a family member dealing with addiction, knows how to get the services they need to save lives.”
McKinnon also noted that Everett’s recent ranking as the city with the most overdoses last year has changed the tenor of conversation among all city workers and elected officials.
“We need to do something to help these people, it is a disease and too many people are dying,” he said.
McKinnon said the City Council will continue doing what it can to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic in Everett and across the state and said that other future efforts may include leading the charge to have more access and training in the use of naloxone (Narcan), which has been proven to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and saving lives.