Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan will host another forum on substance abuse this fall in an effort to curb substance use in the South Shore.
Similar to the program hosted by the mayor in 2011, organizers hopes to bring parents, teachers, coaches, and town officials together on Sept. 19 to speak about substance abuse in the community and what can be done to stop it.
“Everyone really should know what the dangers are, especially prescription drug abuse. But if we would get parents there, teachers, coaches - its important information that people around young people should be aware of, and people working with teens and children,” said Robyn LaFrance, the services coordinator for the Braintree Mayor’s office.
The event will feature District Attorney Michael Morrissey giving an update on the impact of substance abuse in Norfolk County. Morrissey will also speak about what his office is doing specifically to curb prescription drug abuse and to educate kids and teens through school programming.
Sheriff Michael Bellotti and recovery speakers from the Gavin Foundation will also be present at the forum to discuss their dealings with substance abuse.
“It’s important to talk about it, and inform people and let them have the info, be educated, and be able to put their fingers on resources if they have a problem or see a problem they know where to go,” LaFrance said.
According to a meeting agenda, their discussion will feature the newest public service videos, including “Making Choices, Saving Lives,” “What Parents Need to Know,” and “What Teens Need to Know.”
State Senator John Keenan, a Democrat from Quincy, will speak about the work his office has done combating substance issues, namely the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Bill.
The bill, passed by Governor Deval Patrick this month, focuses on several aspects of substance abuse and addiction.
Included in the bill is a requirement for pharmacists to give out information on opiate addiction when giving patients prescriptions, the set up of a prescription drug monitoring program, a mandate for health professionals to run a prescription drug screen for any new patients being prescribed the medication, and a ban on bath salts.
Additionally, the bill puts together a working group of health professionals to establish best practices for opiate prescribing, prohibits pharmacists from filling prescriptions out of state or from most non-contiguous states, calls for training of court personnel to give them resources in identifying substance abuse victims, calls for more drug awareness for the senior community, and establishes a pilot program for additional education within schools.
“Efforts still need to be ramped up. There are some great groups out there – impact Quincy, Learn to Cope has done a great job. But they are all relatively new. They have done a good job with parents coping with these issues, they are breaking down the stigma associated with addiction, which is positive,” Keenan said. “[But] there has to be a continuing focus of prevention, which is where these substance abuse nights come into play, and where curriculum comes into play…there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Even with these forums, community meetings, and outreach efforts, it’s difficult to say if substance abuse has become less prevalent in the South Shore.
“What happens we find the data collected by the state generally lags, so it will take some time to see if this has impact,” Keenan said. “When we try to get emergency room visits in a certain area, sometimes the information may only be through 2010 and we’re in 2012. You hear anecdotally that there is still a major problem.”
Especially after a recent visit to a treatment center in Bridgewater, Keenan said he has seen the problems firsthand.
“It’s sad to see these people down there. In one case, [seeing someone] going through detox curled in a fetal position, and a year ago they were unaware of this type of situation – that they would ever be exposed to prescription painkillers and be addicted,” Keenan said. “[The problem] is still there. The awareness has been heightened, and the stigma is decreasing, which [creates an] opportunity to educate.”
In addition to attending drug forums, Keenan encouraged parents to speak with their kids about prescription drugs, and to safely monitor the drugs if they are in the home.
And as many people come to these forums, when compared to the population of many of these towns, the numbers are still too small, Keenan said.
“There are so many more that need to be aware of the situation,” he said.
According to LaFrance, the meeting, which will occur on Sept. 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Braintree Town Hall, will be taped and aired on Braintree Community Access and Media Television. Those who cannot attend the meeting are encouraged to watch the broadcast.
Additionally, numerous resources are listed on Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan’s webpage on the town’s website. For more information, visit here: http://www.townofbraintreegov.org/mayor/initiatives_substanceabuseprevention.html.