Letter from Deborah Milbauer
Thank you so much for highlighting the opioid epidemic issue. Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency last March in part because deaths from overdose now exceed deaths from car accidents. Some funding (20 million – although not nearly enough to address the issue fully) was allocated to address it. Some money was allocated to expand access and reimbursement to drug treatment, and some money for prevention dollars (which is the area in which I work).
The stat from the state trooper who tweeted the number of suspected deaths is actually a gross underestimate because it does not include Boston, Worcester or Springfield!
I am writing in respose to your question ‘Does Milton have a New Years resolution for this?’. The answer is yes! Two exciting things are being put in place, in the early stages of development: the first is the establishment of a Milton substance abuse prevention coalition (not the official name) being led by public health nurse Caroline Kinsella and Vicki McCarthy. The group is very new but if you’d like to get involved contact Caroline at town hall (or email me and I can forward your email to her:email@example.com). The second exciting development is a new ‘cluster’ partnership with Quincy, Randolph, Braintree, Stoughton and Weymouth, which will mean a more collaborative approach to dealing with the issues (which includes mentoring support for Milton). Both of these efforts (the new coalition and the new ‘cluster’ model) are founded in the principles of public health prevention, which entail conducting a community needs assessment, and then using the results to drive which evidence-based strategies the town may choose to do.
These activities take time and require the input and support from a wide range of voices in town (schools, police, town officials, parents, youth, business, clergy, parks and rec and so on). Already, the milton public health department, the schools, the police, parks and rec, town officials, parents and youth have been incredibly invested and committed to getting the coalition initiative off the ground. Prevention work takes time, and I imagine 2015 will be primarily spent building capacity and raising awareness, but it will lay the groundwork for years to come! In the meantime, in the very short term, the families of the few kids/young adults who are doing the break-ins are struggling terribly with their own sons and daughters heartbreaking addictions. Theft is driven by desperation, not bad people. Let’s not forget that those families should be given our support.
If you know of a family struggling with these issues, there is a wonderful support network for families called ‘learn to cope’ where you can refer them for immediate help accessing services, getting overdose prevention education and finding the comfort and support of others dealing with the same issue. The Quincy meeting is held once a week at eastern Nazareth college on Tuesday nights at 7pm (it’s free). Their website: learn2cope.org.
The year ahead will be filled with lots of work to address the issue head-on here in milton. I hope folks will join the effort!