Articles, Blog

Getting to the Point | The Opioid and Heroin Epidemic: A Public Health Issue

December 27, 2019

(crowd chatting) I want to say, “Good afternoon,” because it’s still
so bright out, but good evening. We’re crossing the 6:00 mark. I’m Jean MacCormack, and I’m the president of the
Edward M. Kennedy Institute. I want to welcome you all here
for this, one of our series in our
Getting to the Point series. I recognize some of you
were here for our first session
on opioid abuse, but we are very grateful that
you took the time on such a beautiful day
to come out and talk with us about
this very important topic. It’s part, as I said,
of our ongoing series that’s focused on bringing
together leaders with diverse
perspectives to discuss current issues
and challenges. The opioid crisis that is
affecting so many lives here in Massachusetts
and across the nation is most certainly an issue
we feel needs to be discussed and, as we were all saying,
would be one that Senator Kennedy said,
“Yes, everybody come here, we have to find a solution.” This past fall, Governor Baker,
Senator Markey, Sheriff Koutoujian,
and Secretary Sudders discussed their bipartisan work on the local, state,
and federal levels to pass comprehensive
legislation to tackle the issue. That legislation
at the federal level and President Obama’s actions have been in the press recently, and the work that has been done
in our own state legislature. And tonight, we’re going to be
hearing from law enforcement
and health care experts, as well as local organizations
working on the ground to create innovative solutions
to the crisis in their own communities
and the places that we all live. We’re very honored
that Jim Wahlberg of the Mark Wahlberg
Youth Foundation is here to speak about the work
that his foundation is doing to help curb the impact
of the crisis. Jim co-wrote and -produced
the movie “If Only” to encourage open dialogue
between parents and children about prescription drug misuse
and opiate addiction. He’s the executive director
of the foundation, and he’s been working in
and around the field of addiction recovery
for over 25 years, so, Jim, we’re very grateful that you’re here with us
tonight. So please join me
in welcoming him now to tell us about the work that
his organization is doing. (applause) This is a long way
from Dorchester and we’re in Dorchester. Isn’t it, Frank?
This is crazy, right? Um, so… I’m not really here to talk
about our organization or what our organization
is doing as much as I am here to talk
about the problem and what we have done to sort of be part
of a solution. We shot the movie that you’re going to see
in a couple of minutes in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. We shot that movie
entirely in Massachusetts and the town opened
their doors to us. We sent the script
to the high school and we said, “Here,
this is what we want to do. Can we get you to join forces
with us?” And we got a call back
instantly: “We want to be a part of this.” Because that community had been,
has been decimated by this problem. Um… You know, every once in a while
people give me a microphone and they let me say stuff. They let me say whatever I want, and I try not to be
controversial. I try to just, you know,
we shot this movie. The goal of the movie is
to start a conversation between kids, parents,
community leaders, doctors, religious folks,
anybody and everybody that’s dealing with children
and dealing with this epidemic. But it does cause me to think
about the fact that in the last few years,
this problem has gotten huge, and every day, we hear
the governor talking about opioid addiction. And, uh, it makes me think
about all the people from my neighborhood that have been dying for years and there was no real lea…
there was no outrage. There was no, it was, you know,
it just, it just happened. I don’t know, maybe it was
supposed to happen, supposed to happen in the ‘hood. I don’t know. But now that it has,
this epidemic has reached outside of the city limits and has impacted different
communities, there’s a lot of noise
being made. And I’m grateful for that noise
being made, please have no misunderstandings
about that. We need to make noise. We need to, we need to address
this issue from all fronts. And I know that Massachusetts is way out in front of many,
many other states, probably every other state, on dealing with this issue. But it just… I can’t get in front
of a microphone and talk about this issue
without without mentioning that. It just… it concerns me. It makes me worried about, uh… You know, it makes me worry
about all those people that have passed many years ago that it didn’t seem to matter. There was a time in South Boston when there were, you know,
suicides weekly. Children. And I know for a fact that
that was directly related to OxyContin and the abuse
of pain medications that were being… Prescriptions were being written and people were getting
their hands on them any way they could. And so, that’s all I’m going
to say on that. We will talk again
after the film, and then I will try not to say
anything controversial anymore. I promise. Thank you. (applause) WOMAN: “That bitter tears
I wept…” “It’s not for laws
I’ve broken “That bitter tears I wept, “But solemn vows I’ve spoken “And promises unkept; “It’s not for sins committed
My heart is full of rue, “But gentle acts omitted,
Kind deeds I did not do. “I have outlived the blindness,
The selfishness of youth; “The canker of unkindness,
The cruelty of truth; “The searing hurt of rudeness…
By mercies great and small, “I’ve come to reckon goodness
The greatest gift of all. “Let us be helpful ever
To those who are in need, “And each new day endeavor
To do some gentle deed; “For faults beyond our grieving,
What kindliness atone; On earth by love achieving
A Heaven of our own.” (book closes) Isaac? Yes. Did you have any thoughts? On? The poem I just finished
reading? I… liked it. Yeah, I liked it. – You did?
– Yeah. And what about it, exactly,
did you like? The subtext. Which was? Living with regret. (bell rings) Um, Robert William Service
was the poet. We’ll be studying him
all next week. Everyone, grab a book
on your way out. Have a good weekend,
and be safe. ♪ ♪ (students chatting indistinctly) Just make sure you’re there
by 8:00. Okay. – And bring some friends.
– Okay. I’ll catch you later. Yo, Isaac. – What’s up?
– Hey. You’re coming tonight, right? Uh, I don’t know,
I haven’t asked my mom yet and I doubt
she’ll even let me go. Bro, this is going to be the biggest party
of our lives, okay? You’re not missing it. I know, but what am I supposed
to say to her? I don’t know, just… Just tell her you’re staying
at my house. If she calls,
my mom will lie for us. BOY: There you go. Man, grow a pair, will you? (boy laughs) You know how I get
when I’m wasted. You wouldn’t want to miss that,
would you? (girl laughs) All right, I’ll be there. My man. Don’t forget to bring something,
all right? Uh, I don’t know if I have
anything, and if I do, how do I know
it’s the good stuff? Anything with a label that
reads, “may cause drowsiness,” or, “don’t drink alcoholic
beverages,” all right? You okay? Yeah, I’m fine. I’ll pick you up at 8:00. Okay. (hinge squeaks) WOMAN:
Isaac, dinner’s ready. I’ll be right there. What’s wrong with you? Why are you so quiet? Um, can I go over
to Cori’s later to study? You want to study
on a Friday night? Yeah, well, we have
a big math test coming up. She wanted to know
if I could help her study. You two have been spending
a lot of time together lately. Is it anything serious? No, no, just friends. Just friends, huh? Yeah, just friends, she… She has a thing for Connor,
so… Oh, God, okay. Okay? I can go? You can go. You gotta be home by 11:30. 12:00 and you got a deal. In your dreams. (laughs) (loud party music playing) CORI: John. JOHN: Hey! CORI: Hey, what’s up? Hey, how’s it going? Where’s Connor? Oh, he’s in the other room. What’s up, man? We’ll be right back. GIRL: Hey! ISAAC: Hey, Stace. You made it! What’s up, man? Told you I would. Good man. You have something for us? What do you got, bro? Oh, yeah. Better be the good stuff. They’re all my mom’s. (laughing) You stole from your mom? There you go. Ladies first! Oh, hello! Don’t mind if I do. You’re up, brother. Get those down, get those down! All right, people,
let’s get this party started! Whoo! ♪ We won’t know who we are,
it’s just our guilty pleasure ♪ ♪ So show me you were right,
show me this shit is real ♪ ♪ Show me there’s no reliable,
let me see how you feel ♪ (music continues) (music continues) (music slows down) (music resumes fast rhythm) (school bell rings) (students talking indistinctly) What’s up? How you doing, man? You know, I think I’m still
a little messed up. That party was epic. It really was. Yeah, how’s John doing? Is he all right? Dude, screw him! He’s an amateur. Why would you take
that many pills if you couldn’t handle it? He’s looking to get my ass
in trouble for going out like that. I talked to his sister
this morning. He’s fine. It wasn’t the drugs. John has seizures all the time. I still say he’s an amateur. Look, I’ll catch up
with you guys later, all right? You want to skip? Screw it. I can’t stand that girl. She’s such a snob. Meghan? Mm-hmm. She’s, like,
the quietest girl in the school. (rattling) What is that? My mom and my doctors say they’re supposed to help me
“focus better” in school. It’s all BS. So… why do you take them? Because they give me a buzz, and I need a buzz
to get through this day. You know that. Here, take one. MAN:
What are you two doing here? CORI:
Uh, it’s our study hall? Isaac, have you got
your physical done yet? Uh, no, Coach, I haven’t. What are you waiting on? Basketball season starts
in two weeks. You can’t play
unless you get your physical. Um, okay, Coach, I’ll make sure to tell my mom
to schedule me one. Make sure. I don’t want to have to bench
my starting point guard. Get to class. CORI (quietly):
Yes, sir! Let’s go. – Hey, Mom!
– Hi! Dinner’s going to be ready soon. I’m starving. How was school? Uh… it was good. I think I aced my math test. Oh, that’s great. What are you doing? I’m hungry. I just said dinner’s
going to be ready. Isaac! Go wash up. Okay. (clears throat) (hinge squeaks) (sniffs) Are you okay? Yeah, I’m fine. Just had a long day. Oh, um, Coach Glenn says that
I need to get a physical in order to join the team, so can you schedule me one,
please? Yeah, I already did. It’s tomorrow morning. Oh, good, thanks. This is so good. Thank you. When can I go
to an adult doctor? When you’re an adult. (mutters):
This is so embarrassing. DOCTOR:
What do you have for me? Isaac? How’ve you been? Pretty good. Ms. Diaz, how are you? Very well, thank you. Just a routine physical? – Yep.
– Yeah. All right, well, you’ll be
in and out of here in no time. You can go inside, take a seat,
I’ll be right there. – Okay.
– Thanks. Um, I don’t need you
to come, Mom. Okay. (chuckles) Dr. Edwards,
can I have a word? Yeah, what is it? It’s Isaac. Mm-hmm. His behavior lately has… It’s been odd. He’s not acting like himself. (birds chirping) Thanks for the ride, Cori. What are you doing tonight? Nothing planned. Call me if you want to hang out. Hey, do you have
any more of those pills you gave me the other day? Always. That’s good? Perfect, fine. Thank you, I’ll call you. See ya. (phone ringing) Hello? Ms. Diaz? It’s Dr. Edwards. How are you? Uh… I’m a nervous wreck. I’m looking at Isaac’s
test results. I have bad news. Isaac tested positive
for opiates and marijuana. Um… Okay, uh, are you sure? Because I heard those tests can
be kind of inaccurate at times. DOCTOR:
I’m afraid not, Ms. Diaz. We have the best lab
in the country. If we need, Ms. Diaz,
we can assist you with resources to help Isaac find the help he needs
before it progresses. And in my experience,
it usually always progresses. I… I would like that, thank you. Okay, I’ll have Laura send over
some information ASAP, okay? Okay, Doctor, thank you. (doctor hangs up) Hi. What’s wrong? Mom, what’s wrong? I, um… I had Dr. Edwards drug-test you. You what? Yeah. And your test results
came back positive. You know that’s a mistake, Mom. How long? How long you been doing them? (scoffs) How long? I said, how long? How long, Isaac? I said, how long? What did I do wrong?! Don’t say that, Mom. (sobbing):
What did I do wrong? You didn’t do anything. I must have done
something wrong, Isaac. I tried so hard,
I tried so hard with you. Oh, my God, I’m so scared. (crying) I don’t recognize you! Where did you get them? Where did you get them?! (sobbing) Please talk to me. Are Connor and Cori
doing them too? Is that what’s going on? Are your friends doing them too? (clears throat) This is a nice place, huh? Everything’s going to be okay. Why are you doing this to me? I’m not an addict;
it was one time. You could have died, Isaac. I’m not going to let that
happen to you. Stop being dramatic, Mom. Isaac, are you ready? I love you. (softly):
Yeah, I love you, too, Mom. I love you. Robert William Service was a British-Canadian poet
and writer. He was often called
“The Bard of the Yukon.” He’s best known for his poem
“The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” which we will be reviewing today
in class. Please open up your books
to page 70. MAN: All right,
so as everybody can see, we have a new addition today. This is Isaac. I want you guys to, uh… Why don’t we go around and everybody can introduce
themselves, and, uh… I’m June. I started drinking
when I was about 12, 13. Just wrong group of friends. My name’s Adam. I started drinking
about two years ago. I’m 18 now, and, uh… It was a pill for me. All my other friends had it,
did it. Now I’m just angry without it. They said I could be a model… I’m Mark, I’m an alcoholic. It’s about my fourth time
being in detox. I was 14. I saw how my mom acted
after she took her medication, and I wanted to see
what it was like… My name is Sarah, and I began
to have an alcohol problem when I was 10. MAN: Listen, I just really want
to thank you guys for your honesty
and making Isaac feel welcome. You guys got about an hour
before your next group, so go take a break. Hold on, Isaac. How are you feeling? Like I don’t belong here
and this is a waste of time. Maybe. But maybe you do. And you heard their stories. I went to a party once
and got high. Big deal. Who doesn’t do that at my age? A lot of people. (sighs) It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It’s a bunch of dead trees. Actually, they’re not dead. (clears throat) They’re very much alive. They’re what’s known as
deciduous trees. They shed their leaves. It’s like a defense mechanism
against harsh conditions. They have these broad,
thin leaves that are, you know,
really susceptible to damage. So they just let ’em go. But when conditions improve,
they come back healthier and stronger
than before. Not much different than you. What? I’ll see you in an hour. (bottle pops open) (sets bottle down) (bottle pops open) (sighs) (knocking) (footsteps approaching) WOMAN:
Who is it now? Hi, can I help you? Hi, I’m Karina Diaz–
Isaac’s mother. I was just hoping
you had a second. Oh, actually, I don’t. I have dinner plans soon, so… Oh, I’m so sorry. Well, it’ll only take a second. It’s actually about Connor. You said you were
Isaac’s mother, right? That’s right. Oh, God, what a shame. You know, my Connor told me
all about you having to put your boy
into rehab. You know, at least there,
he won’t be able to influence other kids
to do drugs. Actually, I told my son he can’t hang around with yours
any longer. I’m sorry. How dare you? How dare I? I came here to let you know
your son is also doing drugs, and as a concerned parent,
I just thought you should know. Now you listen to me: don’t you come around here
trying to point the finger at other people. You know, honey, just because
your son is a screw-up, God, it doesn’t mean
that mine is. I’m not pointing my finger
at anyone. I’m handling my son
and our issues, but I wanted to talk to you
mother-to-mother so we could see what’s going on
with our kids. Excuse me. You know nothing of my son. Well, I’d appreciate it
if you’d leave now. Miss Diaz, have a good day. I really hope you find a way
how to handle that boy. Bye. (sighs) Who was that? Nobody. You ready to go? Because I am starving. Let me tell him we’re leaving. Okay. Connor! Honey, come on,
he’s not going to hear you. He probably has his headphones
in, so let’s go. Time to go, come on. Yeah, but dude, I’m the illest point guard
you’ll ever see… COUNSELOR:
Guys? BOY:
Oh, really? ISAAC:
Think I’m good? My boy Connor
would break your ankles. Nah. He would! Hey. What’s up, Bob? What’s up, buddy? It’s nice to see you smiling. How are you feeling? A little cold, but I’ll live. Better? Yeah? Listen, don’t take this
personally, okay? But I do not want to see you
back here, you understand me? Huh? (laughing):
You and me both. Excuse me, Bob? I need Isaac to come with me
for a minute. Sure. Why? You have a visitor. Oh. Dave? Make sure you finish that. Mom? What’s… what happened? What happened? (crying):
Honey… What’s wrong? Mom, what’s wrong? Honey, Connor was found dead
yesterday. What? I’m so sorry. What? What do you mean? He overdosed, and his mom
found him in his room. I’m so sorry. Connor’s gone. He’s gone, sweetheart,
I’m so sorry. (“Ave Maria” begins playing) ♪ Ave Maria ♪ ♪ Gratia plena ♪ ♪ Maria, gratia plena… ♪ PRIEST:
In the name of the Father, of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. ALL:
Amen. PRIEST: The grace of our Lord,
Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy
Spirit be with you all. In the waters of baptism, Connor died with Christ
and rose with Him to new life. May he now share with Him
eternal glory. ♪ Dominus tecum ♪ ♪ Benedicta tu in mulieribus ♪ PRIEST: And now I invite Isaac
to come up and share some thoughts with us. Connor was my classmate. (crying) My best friend. (sniffs) It was Connor who,
on my very first day of school, convinced me to try out
for the basketball team. (inhales) He said I needed to put
my lanky arms to good use. You know,
a lot of times when we’re young, we think we’re invincible. (sniffs) We’re not. PRIEST: In the name
of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. ALL:
Amen. Thank you so much
for coming. WOMAN:
So sorry for your loss. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks for coming, buddy. Miss Diaz… Thank you both so much
for coming, Miss Diaz. We’re so sorry for your loss. Take good care of this boy. Your lives are so fragile
and precious. We as parents, we have to do everything
that we can for… If there’s anything we can do,
please don’t hesitate to ask. That day… I should have listened to you. That day you came by,
I should have listened. But instead I went to dinner while my son was alone,
dying in his room. It’s all right. (sniffs) If only… If only I… Sorry. I’m sorry. Thank you guys for coming. Thank you. (softly): Take care. ♪ If only I knew that
all your words were true ♪ ♪ That everything
would be all right ♪ ♪ My heart would find it
to the light ♪ ♪ If only I knew
to put aside my pride ♪ ♪ That I had let
the Lord decide ♪ ♪ Held His hand
and watched Him guide ♪ ♪ If only ♪ ♪ If only ♪ ♪ Left with this painful
emptiness ♪ ♪ I fell on my knees
to confess ♪ ♪ Everything good
lost in darkness ♪ ♪ I failed to realize
that I was blessed ♪ ♪ So I wait for that day ♪ ♪ When I can say that
I’m sorry ♪ ♪ If only I knew that
all your words were true ♪ ♪ That everything
would be all right ♪ ♪ My heart would find it
to the light ♪ ♪ If only I knew
to put aside my pride ♪ ♪ That I had let
the Lord decide ♪ ♪ Held His hand
and watched Him guide ♪ ♪ If only ♪ ♪ If only ♪ ♪ All my hope now fades
and dies away ♪ ♪ I struggle to find
the words to say ♪ ♪ All the promises
I failed to keep ♪ ♪ I try to trust that Heaven’s
at your feet ♪ ♪ So I wait for that day ♪ ♪ When I can say that
I’m sorry ♪ ♪ If only I knew that
all your words were true ♪ ♪ That everything
would be all right ♪ ♪ My heart would find
it to the light ♪ ♪ If only I knew
to put aside my pride ♪ ♪ That I had let
the Lord decide ♪ ♪ I held His hand
and watched Him guide ♪ ♪ If only ♪ ♪ If only ♪ ♪ Yeah, if only ♪ ♪ If only ♪ ♪ If only, if only ♪ ♪ When will I see you again? ♪ ♪ All day long,
I’m thinking of you ♪ ♪ So crazy, are you sleeping,
begging, and pleading? ♪ ♪ I was wrong ♪ ♪ I’ll take all the blame
for this ♪ ♪ Feelings never played
a part ♪ ♪ He meant nothing to me,
swaying my precarious heart ♪ ♪ Love can be so blind… ♪ (film soundtrack fades out) So I guess I won’t wait
for them to stop. We can talk over this. So I’ve seen this movie,
I don’t know, probably 150 times. Um… So as I was saying, I’ve seen this movie probably
150 times at screenings and throughout the process
of making the movie, and it’s amazing how there’s
some parts in the movie that affect me as much as
the first time I saw it, and not just the obvious: you know, the tribute
to the families that were involved in making
the movie at the end, but you know,
throughout the movie. When the mother discovers that
her son is on drugs and she instantly wants to know
what did she do wrong and she wants
to blame herself, I have had that experience, and it’s a very difficult
experience to have. And when the mother
drops her son off to rehab, when we shot that scene,
that actress– her name is Juliana Harkavy,
and she’s been in a lot of stuff and she’s a very
experienced actress– when we shot that scene, we put the camera on her face
and we just left it there, and we were all
behind the camera, and I looked around me
and people were crying. And she just… I don’t know. She’s someone that’s also
very familiar with the disease of addiction, and she was a wonderful person
to work with. Some of the small details
about the movie: the main character, Isaac,
is played by my son Jeffrey. My mom is in the movie,
my brother Bob is in the movie– he plays the therapist
in the rehab– my nephew Brandon is
in the movie, and the reason that is is that my family
is very familiar with addiction. And I think it’s always
important for me to say that
I’m a recovering person, and that treatment works, and that this is the work
of many recovering people, and there are a lot of people
that I met in the process
of making the movie. You know, when you’re working,
you kind of lose focus, I think. I certainly did. I lost focus on the big picture,
what we were there for, what brought us together,
what the movie was about, and I was just making a movie,
you know, and I had people that I needed
to do certain things and be in certain places,
and I got distracted. And then we were shooting
the funeral scene, and we had sent out word
through some friends that we were looking
for families that had lost loved ones to be involved in the making
of the movie. We thought it was important. And my dear friend
Louise Griffin from a program called GRASP
reached out to some people, and she called me and she said, “I’ve got 400 people
that want to come “that lost their loved ones. Can you handle 400 people?” And I was in shock. “You have 400 people who have lost their children
to overdoses?” And she said, “Yeah.” And on the day
we shot that scene, as you can see,
that was real snow. We got about ten feet of snow
up here last year. That was the first big storm, and people got in their cars
from all over the state. 250 people showed up. That tribute at the end,
it could have went on for days. And I tried to make it a point
to meet each and every family. And I was at a screening
last night in New Hampshire, and there’s a woman who’s
in the movie at the end holding a picture of her son, and I met her the day
we were shooting, and I had been telling the story
of meeting her at every screening, but I never really
connected her name. We didn’t have that kind
of a conversation. She was in great emotional pain
when we talked. Her son, um… …had died
just one month before. She came down
on Christmas morning and found her son overdosed. And she was with us last night sharing that story
with about 500 people. You know,
before the movie started, I talked about the governor
and the state of Massachusetts and where we are
and how we are, I think, a lot further along
than many other states, if not every other state,
on trying to fight this battle. And you know,
I think so much of the credit… Every time I see
the governor on TV talking about the opioid
addiction problem, around him, I see the families
who have lost children. And these people who I have met
through this process are just… they’re just the most
unbelievably strong, dedicated, motivated, almost possessed
kind of people that are just… they’re out there fighting
for us so that we don’t have to have
that experience, right? We showed the movie
up at the State House. We showed it
in the Reps’ lounge, to a ton of Reps
and their staff, and I brought
a little girl with me who I met
just a couple of days before at a screening at the Jordan’s
Furniture IMAX Theater. And afterwards,
we had a Q and A, and she stood up and said, “Mr. Wahlberg,
can I ask you a question?” And I said, “Sure.” And she said, “Can I get you to bring
this movie to my school? “Because I hear kids having
good-time conversations about getting high
all the time.” And she was about this big. And I said,
“Honey, how old are you?” And she was 12. She was in the seventh grade and she went to school
in Tewksbury. And so I said to her, “If you talk to your principal,
talk to your guidance counselor, “talk to your parents,
whoever you’ve got to talk to, if they’ll have us, we’ll come.” And we went, and she started
this whole sort of campaign in her school on her own. And I’ve met people like this
throughout this process: people that are fighting
the good fight. I’m a parent. I have no idea how these people
get out of bed in the morning, you know, but they do. And they do it
so that other families don’t have to suffer that pain. And what I’d like to do now is
I’d like to introduce you to a parent who has had
this horrific experience, and she’s going to share
her story with you. (applause) Thank you, Jim, and a special thanks to
Celia Richa and Devon Follett for reaching out to me to
participate in tonight’s event. I’m honored to be here to talk about this important
public health issue. I’ve probably seen
the “If Only” film not as many times as Jim,
but at least a half dozen times, and it never fails
to get me right here. Those songs at the end, I… And the pictures,
they’re just heart wrenching. I can relate to what Isaac’s
mother is feeling in the film because I lived it. I remember noticing changes
in my son Ryan when he was in middle school. At first,
I attributed it to puberty: the talking back to me,
oversleeping, and the moodiness. He was 15 years old when I found empty nip bottles
in my piano bench after he had a sleepover
with a friend. His friend had stolen them
from his grandparents. It wasn’t long before Ryan
came home smelling like pot. I thought,
“Okay, kids experiment.” He was my middle child, I’d already gone through similar
experiences with my older… with his older sister,
and she was fine. “He’ll outgrow it,”
I thought. Well, he did outgrow it, but he eventually grew
into trying mushrooms, cocaine, then opiates, mostly Percocets, and finally,
to injecting heroin. It’s bad enough
when you discover your child is using drugs–
any drug– but when you find needles
in his room, your heart stops. It’s like a slap in the face. Ryan became addicted, and I later learned that
it was a rapid progression from painkillers to heroin–
less than a year– and the changes in Ryan’s
personality and character happened just as quickly. He got to the point
where he became a person that no one in our family
recognized. He lost his spark. That fun-loving, witty kid that always had a comeback
remark to make you laugh and the classic impish smile
was gone. Instead, he was losing weight,
he was easily agitated, and had a deadpan,
distant look in his eyes. Ryan was 21 years old when he died of a heroin
overdose four years ago. To this day, it’s still hard
for me to say those words. All the telltale signs
became apparent once Ryan started using opiates. Schoolwork suffered,
he barely graduated, he was losing jobs because he was oversleeping
and calling in sick, and he started stealing and pawning anything of value
in our house that he could sell for heroin. Our family did everything
possible to help Ryan before we knew
he was using heroin. I always talk to my kids
about drug and alcohol abuse because there was a history
of addictive behavior on both sides of the family. I made a point of knowing
his friends and their parents– all good families. Ryan went to drug counseling, our pediatrician got involved
and talked to Ryan, and he went to detox twice. Ryan had attention
deficit disorder, anxiety, low self-esteem, and family
history all working against him. I would watch that show
and think to myself,
“That’s not Ryan. He’s not like the people
on that show.” But he was–
he just didn’t look the part. I’m here tonight to tell you
that I was uneducated, naive, and probably at times in denial. My spoons were disappearing, I would find corners
of plastic sandwich bags and Q-tips
with the cotton part missing, but I didn’t know what it all
meant at the time. It wasn’t until I found a needle
in my son’s room that I realized
what was happening. I didn’t know
where to turn for help. I was afraid of my son
being judged, and of being judged
as a bad parent. The stigma is slowly
starting to lift since the epidemic
has become national news. Law enforcement
and health professionals are becoming more sensitive to the fact that
opiate addiction is a disease and that people
with a substance abuse problem need compassion
and recovery services. We need to advocate
in our community for more education for parents about the signs of drug use
and drug paraphernalia, and for early childhood
education about what opiates are and how easy it is
to get addicted to them. It’s never too early
to start teaching kids about the dangers
of these drugs. I have a four-year-old grandson, and he knows that
Uncle Ryan died because he took too many drugs. He might not know
what drugs are now, but once he does, I hope it will
prevent him from using some day. It’s too late for my son and for people
at the end of the film, but there are
so many more people– and they are people,
not junkies or losers– that are suffering
with this disease and deserve the chance
to get their lives back. In the end, it should be
all about saving lives, no matter what it takes. Thank you. (applause) Thank you, Paula, for sharing. A powerful movie
and an important message. And what we want to do now is have our panelists
for the evening come up and talk about their experience. I’m happy to introduce
Leonard Campanello. He’s been leading the efforts
as Gloucester Chief of Police to combat the opioid crisis
in his community. Last year, he launched
the Angel Initiative that allows addicts to enter
police stations with drugs without facing criminal charges so they can be led
to a drug treatment program. Last month,
the White House honored him as a Champion for Change
for his innovative work in reaching out to people
struggling with drug addiction, and he’s now working
to help launch similar programs across the U.S. Very fortunate to have him
in our state. And Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan,
the president and CEO of the Dimock Health Center
in Boston. It’s Boston’s
second-largest center serving the Roxbury,
Mattapan, Dorchester, and the Jamaica Plain
neighborhoods. The Dimock Center
is considered a model for comprehensive health
and human services, and Dr. Jordan and her staff
have been on the ground dealing directly
with the effects the opioid epidemic has had
on her community. Thank you both for being here
with us tonight. If you’d come up. And it’s my honor to welcome our
moderator for this discussion, Todd Feathers
fromThe Lowell Sun.He’s been covering
the opioid epidemic at the local level
for the past two years. He’s an award-winning reporter,
and we’re delighted to have him be able to guide us
in this conversation. Thank you all. (applause) FEATHERS: All right,
thank you to the Institute, everybody who came out tonight,
Dr. Jordan, Chief Campanello. I guess I was hoping
to start off, if you could both just explain
some of the changes that your organizations have
gone through over the past year. I understand there have been
some significant ones for both of you. MINTER-JORDAN:
Did you want to begin? CAMPANELLO:
Go right ahead. Well, again, thank you
for having me here. This is obviously
a critical discussion, and what I would say… I’ve been the president and CEO
of the Dimock Center for the last three years,
and in that three years, we all know
how much this epidemic has taken a stronghold– not only in Massachusetts,
but across the country. So because of that, we’ve had to step up the way
that we think about treatment and how much we need to provide
better access to treatment across the continuum of services
at our community health center, and I would say
even prior to that, in response
to our community’s need– and you heard
our catchment area’s primarily Roxbury,
Dorchester, Mattapan, and those communities are primarily black
and brown communities. We’ve added programs
and services to better respond not only to the substance abuse
issues in the community, but also to the mental health
that is very often intertwined with substance abuse
and with addiction. So we’ve added… we have four residential
programs on our campus, we have an inpatient detox, we have outpatient
addiction services and outpatient mental health, and the expansion
of those programs over time has really been in response
to community need. In the last year, we were able to complete
a $16 million capital campaign to renovate our detox
and add additional beds. We currently see
3,000 clients a year, we’ll move
to 4,000 clients a year. And I would love to tell you
that we shouldn’t do that, we don’t need to do that, but clearly there’s a need
that we need to meet. And at the same time,
we need to work on prevention, educating our own providers
in our health center, in our dental clinic. Every specialty within
our community health center is undergoing education
to be able to better understand how to prescribe
pain medications. And we were saying
in the green room not too long ago
that physicians– and that when I was in training,
I remember this– the pain scale was introduced. We weren’t assessing enough pain
in our patients, and there was a big influx
of pharmaceutical education around how to prescribe
pain medications. Prior to that time,
OxyContin was only used for cancer patients
in hospice situations, and it became a different animal
over time throughout that. And that’s not the only reason
why the medical profession has to share some of the blame
regarding this epidemic, but that’s one of the pieces
that we’ve seen, and now we have to change that. We have to change the education,
integrate substance abuse and behavioral health
into our clinic, and work on reducing the stigma
across communities. So that’s a bit of how we’ve
responded in the last few years. CAMPANELLO: Well,
in Gloucester, Massachusetts, we were having the same issues that every other community
was having– certainly
across the Commonwealth and across the nation– and we were watching
a generation kind of be forgotten, or watched them cycle in and out
of the criminal justice system with no real reason behind it. You know,
we had a group of people, a demographic
that wasn’t being helped, and we got really
fed up about it and decided that,
you know, very simply… I mean, the program
has grown quite a bit, but very simply,
what it was introduced as is that if you present to the
Gloucester Police Department with or without drugs
and ask for help, we’re going to do
everything we can to get you into treatment without fear of arrest
or solicitation of information. We removed the word “junkie”
from our vernacular– we don’t use that word
or any stereotypes anymore. And I’m always ashamed
to be at these things, and I’ll tell you why: law enforcement was very late
to this game. We spent a lot of time shaming
and blaming. And so to the families
that are in here that we treated
with less dignity and respect or professionalism, or most importantly,
compassion, on behalf of the law enforcement
community that I’m a part of, I’d like to apologize, because we were
very late to the game, and it’s much easier
for people, I think, to fear and use shame and blame as opposed to use compassion
and use their ability to accept. And in law enforcement,
this is no achievement; this is a responsibility,
and we failed. So we’re happy to be here now,
and we’re happy that the message in Gloucester
has sort of mushroomed. We feel
very responsible for it, but we don’t think
it’s an achievement. We’re sad about the people
that we didn’t help before. But the program goes on. We have 250 treatment centers that we partner with
across the country that provide scholarships
for people that can’t afford or don’t have
the proper insurance, about $60 million worth
of scholarships. We have 110 police departments
in about 28 states now, and there’s probably over 100
that are just waiting for us to type up their release through our national
non-profit, PAARI, which is the Police-Assisted
Addiction Recovery Initiative. And we continue to do what
we can do in law enforcement, which I think more importantly than the concrete things
we’ve seen, which is a reduction in fatal
overdoses in Gloucester, a reduction in crime associated
with addiction, a reduction in costs associated
with incarcerating someone as opposed to helping them, I think far more important
for us is that we seem to be a loud voice
in destigmatizing this disease. And that’s what it is:
it’s a disease. Obviously, everyone in this room
knows that. And so, you know, whatever voice we can add
to that destigmatization, I think it’s our responsibility
to do so. And apparently,
a lot of other people believe the same thing
in law enforcement because we are starting
to see a trend. And hopefully soon,
we’ll be able to announce that the national model
for law enforcement is to treat before arrest or to facilitate treatment
before arrest. We travel down
to New York tomorrow to see if we can get
that message out there. Chief, the last time
I heard you talk, which was some months ago, I believe you’d said that
somewhere around 400 people had gone through
the Angel Program. Is that…? CAMPANELLO: The Angel Program
we have in Gloucester, we have about 450 now
that have gone through. What’s been peculiar about it
is that when we first started, we were… You know, this is a very
heavy topic for everybody, and so if I express… I usually express with some type
of off-putting humor, so forgive me. You know, we were the only
people in the Commonwealth that were doing this,
so we were getting everyone. The joke before we started was,
you’re not going to get anybody because no one’s going
to trust you. It’s like, you know,
sending out 1,000 postcards to people with arrest warrants
and offering them a free boat, and then when they get there,
we lock them up because our message
was so different: come to the police station,
we’ll help. But word of mouth spread, and then within
the first few weeks, we were getting, you know,
20 people, 30 people a week and we were really rolling. And when the program
started taking off in other parts of the state,
our numbers declined, which was great
because we know that people were going to their closest
police department. And actually, we saw Gloucester
residents who didn’t come to us go to other police departments
because of that stigma. So we were both helping other
residents who were coming in and residents from Gloucester who didn’t feel
comfortable enough coming to us to go to others. So we’re at 450,
our partner organizations are well over 1,100 now,
I think. And Scarborough, Maine, is… I just have to mention this
as an example. So the governor up there
is my role model. I mean, if you’ve ever heard
the governor speak about how, you know, that Narcan should be
taken off the streets and that all the drug dealers
come from out of the state and come in and sell drugs
and impregnate women and then leave… He’s a maniac
and he shouldn’t be allowed in public office ever again. But his police departments
are telling him, “No, we have to start
seeing this as for what it is: a public health crisis.” And Scarborough, Maine… the state of Maine
has 16 detox beds. The whole state,
16 beds in the whole state. Scarborough, Maine, just placed
their 150th person in treatment instead of arrest
or incarceration through partnership with PAARI
and the Gloucester Initiative and in-kind scholarships
and things like that. So if a police department
in Maine with that much
political backlash and that few resources
can do it, then anybody can, and it’s a great tribute
to them. FEATHERS: As that program
spreads, as awareness spreads, does Massachusetts, New England
have the infrastructure to handle this number of people
seeking treatment and the infrastructure
to manage them from one treatment program
to the next? Because it sounds like you go
to one place and you’re done. Doctor? CAMPANELLO:
No, I don’t think we do, I think the doctor would agree. And Dimock is awesome,
by the way, because we call them, you know, one of the first places
we called, and they’ve always been so good
about working with us. I think the doctor
can probably speak much more on this than I can, but I think she will agree that,
you know, we don’t have the capacity to put everyone
into a treatment bed on day one. But we’re viewing this
as either you get a treatment bed
or you get nothing, And we’re going to just,
you know, go call next week. And there’s so many
different avenues between inpatient intensive
detox treatment bed and nothing that we have to start looking
at that. And I’ll defer to the doctor
on that. MINTER-JORDAN: No, I think
you’re exactly right. There clearly are not enough
beds to meet the need, but also for the beds
that we do have, trying to navigate the system
to get to them is also really difficult. Because not every detox
is at capacity. It’s also a matter of difficulty
with navigating the system. We can all have
our own experience of trying to navigate
the healthcare system when you’re not
under the influence. Imagine when you are
how much more difficult that is. But there are not enough beds,
but I agree with you, there’s a continuum of services
that we don’t often tap into, often starting
with mental health services, getting someone in
to see a clinician to understand
what the issues are that are influencing
their addictive behavior, having primary care step up
and take on more of a role in terms of providing therapy
and support and working on getting
into outpatient programs. So there is… there are many choices
along that continuum that we can tap into that
we often don’t think about. It doesn’t begin
with the detox bed and it certainly
doesn’t end there. And we also have to think
about what happens after detox, because often, people go right
back to where they came from, and those influences
are still there. So a detox is not enough. You really do need
the full continuum at multiple points
along the road to recovery, as we call it. FEATHERS: So you mentioned
dealing with people with co-occurring conditions– mental health issues
and substance abuse. Could you both just speak
a little bit to how you manage
the gray areas, people who, you know,
have a co-occurring condition, people who may be dealing drugs
to fund their habit. CAMPANELLO:
Well, I’ll speak a little bit. I think again this is a question
for the doctor, obviously. You know, I think that if you’re
dealing to support your habit… Excuse me, habit is
a very bad word to use. If you’re dealing to support
your addiction, your disease, I don’t consider you
a drug dealer. I think that you’re
an addicted person who was finding
the last resort of, you know,
the disease taking over. You’ve pawned everything or you’ve done everything
you could, and you have to feed
the disease. There’s no choice. So you turn to dealing
to support your own addiction. So from our standpoint,
you know, we’re looking for people,
those insidious people that will wait outside
of rehab centers and offer free bags of heroin
to people, who offer free bag Sunday. You know, “Call me up today, “we’ll front you
100 bags of heroin just to keep you addicted.” And not using
the opioid themselves, but using it to make
a big profit for themselves and not even caring about the
misery that they’re spreading. MINTER-JORDAN:
Also, to answer that question, part of what
I’m most appreciative of regarding our model
is that it’s fully integrated. So when you’re
in any of our programs, not only are you getting
addiction treatment, but we also have
mental health clinicians that are trained in addiction
in the program. So we’re not just having
addiction medicine counselors or physicians treating
our patients and clients; they’re also interacting
with mental health clinicians at every step of the way, whether or not that’s
in our primary care clinic, within our detox, or within any
of our residential programs. And it’s critical to have that. You can’t have a model where you
only focus on the addiction; you have to focus on what are
the underlying issues. Most people who have
an addiction have dual diagnoses. They also have
a mental health disorder, whether or not that’s
depression or any other, ADHD, the full spectrum of things
that can influence and create the potential
for addiction to happen. So we have to address that and be holistic in the way that
we think about this. And often,
we hear these discussions of mental health folks saying, “Well, why is there such a focus
on addiction?”, or addiction folks saying
we need more focus on addiction, but it’s really both. And we need to be working
together along those lines to be comprehensive in the way
that we address this issue. And then in terms
of socioeconomic factors, we can work on the addiction
with folks, but they also need to figure out how do they get back
in their education. So we have a GED program
in our campus. How do they get a job? How do they get back
into the work life? How do you do résumé writing,
job preparedness? So that’s part and parcel
to our residential programs as providing those other
trainings that are critical to helping someone stay
on the road to recovery. If you are on the path
to recovery and you go out
and you don’t work and you’re sitting at home,
the chances that you will be a victim again of the disease
are high. So we want to make sure that
people have a path out. It’s not always easy, but that’s what we work on
with our clients and families. I think we’ll take
an audience question now. Raise your hand. MAN:
How are you, Doctor? Just curious,
the 3,000 people that you… My name’s Frank Baker,
I live in the neighborhood. I actually am a City Councilor,
I represent this area, I represent
the “Methadone Mile,” work on this issue every day. Those 3,000 people
that you treat every year, how many of those
are repeat customers? So like, how many actual people
can we call… Like, that 3,000 beds, how many people are
being served there? Sure, so the recidivism rate is
anywhere between 30% and 40%. It’s high. 30% to 40% of folks
come back again. And you’ve heard in the movie
that we saw, and I think we all know folks that have gone through
multiple tours within a detox. And so we’re trying
to be innovative in thinking about
how do we create less of that. And part of it is introducing
recovery coaches to help people navigate
the rest of that pathway and to keep them
on that pathway. That’s something that the state
has begun to fund, and we’re looking
for additional funds to be able to do that
and hire more. But we’re trying to address
that issue as well because you’re right. 3,000 clients, but if 30% to 40%
of them are coming back, they are taking beds from others
that are newly addicted. And we want everyone to be free
and clear of this disease, but it takes more innovation
and more support and resources to be able to do that
effectively. (no audio) (woman speaking, then microphone
cuts out) (intermittent audio) (no audio) (intermittent audio) (intermittent audio) (intermittent audio) (intermittent audio) (intermittent audio) MINTER-JORDAN:
That’s an excellent point and a really hard one. You know, as a physician, I see a lot of patients
who have chronic pain, and part of it
is balancing expectations. I want you to sort of take this with the spirit
in which I’m saying it, in that America or society
has gotten to this place where we should feel no pain. And the reality in many cases
is that you will feel pain. And the expectation that pain
will completely be obliterated is a hard one
for a physician to manage. You want to help the person
that you’re with, that’s what we’ve been trained
to do. But sometimes,
there has to be a conversation about what are
the realistic expectations. There will be good days,
there will be bad days. And the other piece of that is that we have to embrace
non-traditional treatment. Mindfulness, acupuncture, there are so many things that
the general medical society hasn’t embraced
as much as we should, and we really need to, because it’s not
all about pain pills, it’s not all about completely
relieving the pain; it’s also about teaching
patients how to deal with some level of pain. Exercise, weight loss, there’s so many pieces
that are harder to do. But we’re in this society
where everything is quick fix, rapid response, and that’s not always what
will get us to the right end. And so that’s
a really tough discussion and it’s a long discussion, and we’re in this situation now
where we have 15 minutes to address an issue
with a patient. So trying to create a team
that’s also enabled and empowered to have those
discussions with patients is also important. But it’s not easy. Chronic pain is
a really tough one. CAMPANELLO:
So I’ll tell you that, like, I always get in trouble when someone alludes
to pharmaceuticals or someone alludes
to the number of pain pills that are out there. So let’s… from the standpoint
of law enforcement, I’ll cut straight to the chase and say that 80% of the people
as measured by the ONDCP, 80% of the people that we see
come to us addicted to heroin by starting on a legally
prescribed pain medication. Okay? And here I go. So here’s for the Edward M.
Kennedy Institute, here’s your quote for tomorrow: pharmaceuticals are killing
far more Americans every year than any terrorist group
in the world. And they’re doing it… (applause) And they’re doing… they’re doing it
on the backs of a generation that’s never going to have
a chance. And physicians are not to blame
in this. When we talk to physicians,
they’re almost desperate. If this was a simple matter
of pharmaceuticals shoving money into the hands
of politicians, this would be over–
this crisis would be over. They have insinuated themselves into every part of the
healthcare management system from our standpoint
in law enforcement. Doctors are measured–
from what we hear from when we talk
to physicians– doctors are measured in the way
they can manage pain. What’s the first question
the doctor asks you whether you’re there
for a referral or whether you’re there
for a headache or anything? “How much pain are you in? “Go find the scale
on my office wall from the happy face
to the sad face.” If that doctor is not doing
a good job managing your pain, like any other profession,
they’re judged based on that. And they tell us,
“Look, I got to feed a family, I got to do this,
I got to do that,” and they’re right: they’re human beings
like the rest of us. They know their responsibility,
they want to be regulated. They tell us,
“Regulators, pass laws so we don’t have
to manage pain.” It’s insinuated
throughout the system that pain is
the number one thing. This country is five percent
of the world’s population and we consume 85%
of the medication in the world, of pain medication. We’re not in that much pain! We’re not in that much pain. And don’t get me wrong, pain medication has a place,
it definitely has a place. But at some point, you know,
we have to look beyond it. For the sake of everybody
who’s lost a child or a family member in this,
we have to look beyond that. And pharmaceuticals are
the only ones in this crisis from our perspective, again,
in law enforcement, who have come to the table,
paid lip service, and walked away
without doing anything. Oh, I’m sorry,
the big thing they did was they told you where all the
medication disposal units were in Massachusetts. Not that
that wasn’t already done by the District Attorneys
five years ago, but thanks for that. So I have a real hardened spot
in my soul for people who hide
behind attorneys at the expense
of other people’s lives. FEATHERS: We have
one more question over there, I think we have time
for another one. MAN: Thank you, Chief,
and thank you, Doctor. Gary Regis from Rocky Neck
in Gloucester. CAMPANELLO: Hey, Gary. MAN: Chief. CAMPANELLO: He’s a plant. (laughter) MAN: I was one of the cautiously
optimistic ones when you announced
the program last year, and you proved me wrong
really fast, so now I’m more optimistic
about it, you know, and I’ve referred folks
to the program, and I really am glad
it’s happening in Gloucester. And you know, right now, we’re fighting to get
$5 million restored into our substance abuse
disorder bill up in the State House, and our Senate’s voting on it
this week. We seem to have to do this
all the time. This is for, like, prevention,
treatment, and recovery. And you know, I applaud you,
doctor, for the Dimock, you know, like the detox,
the program, the campus over there,
wonderful. You know, but we have a lot
of public injection going on, and like the Chief knows, we have people that overdose
in automobiles, we have people that overdose
in the injection facilities like McDonald’s
and Dunkin’ Donuts, and engaging this population,
it’s really difficult. Engaging pre-contemplative
stage folks, people that are in the cars,
they’re not ready for treatment, they’re not ready to
go to a detox, and I think we need to do
a better job on engaging that population
of drug users because they’re left
mostly out in the cold. You know, we have to get them in
out of the rain, give them a warm cup of coffee, and maybe talk about stuff that
leads to treatment readiness. Do you have any suggestions
on that, doctor, like what we could do
to engage that using population? Not people that are knocking and calling to get
into treatment, but the population that’s left
out on the streets. And you see them, like, the doctor sees them down
on Albany Street and Mass Ave. I really refrain
from calling it Methadone Mile, but you know,
I was down there the other day and it’s… you know,
we need help out there. So Doc, that’s for you. MINTER-JORDAN:
That’s a tough one. I think the thing
that comes to mind as you were speaking
is around the stigma, because people don’t feel like
they can even… They don’t feel like
they’re a person anymore. They don’t feel like they’re
worthy of even engaging in the conversation
around their addiction. So the fact that
we are now working on the State Without Stigma
campaign with the governor, all those things matter
and count and help, because if we can’t even have
a conversation and we can’t even talk
to an addict because we think that
they’re a bad person, then those conversations
will never happen. So I think the stigma is
a big part of that. Certainly there’s the outreach, and I know many organizations
do outreach. Healthcare for the Homeless
does that where they have folks
that go out to the streets to try to bring people
into care. But a lot of it
is educating families so that they’re not turning
their back on their loved ones. And it’s hard. My sister has struggled
with addiction, and it’s hard. When someone is in your house
and stealing things from you, it’s really hard
to see them as a person that you want to continue
to love and embrace. But it’s also being taught that
this is a disease and not thinking of it as,
“They’re this bad person, why are they doing this
to my family?” They’re suffering. And what are the options
for care? Let’s have a discussion
about it. That’s the first step in that
that I can tell you, but it’s not easy,
because there are folks that, to your point, are not ready
for those conversations, but they also feel like there’s
no place for them to have them. FEATHERS: So very, very quickly,
how do we engage the people around the person struggling
with addiction? Whether it’s family,
friends… CAMPANELLO: You know,
Gary alluded to that $5 million. Those fund programs
like Learn to Cope. Learn to Cope is one
of the many programs out there that deals specifically
with family members of those who are suffering
from this disease. And they do… every time
I go to one of their meetings, I’m just blown away
by how well they’re doing at educating and supporting
those who have loved ones who are struggling
with this disease. If that $5 million gets cut, you know, bye-bye
to half the chapters. And so it may not seem like
a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but it’s so vital
to have these programs. And another way I think we can
engage is in trust building. Especially in law enforcement, we’ve built a bridge to those
who are in real need, and that’s a start. We need to continue to do that with those who are
in that stage of user. We need to build
a good prevention model. Show me one, I’ll put it
in Gloucester tomorrow. I haven’t seen one. D.A.R.E.– disaster. Choose to Refuse– forget it. Just Say No– just say no
to cancer or diabetes. It’s the same thing–
you can’t do it. So let’s look
at prevention models as well, and get really good ones. And listen to the addiction
recovery community and the people
who have been through this. Why are we not listening
to them? FEATHERS: I think that’s
a pretty good note to end on. (applause) Do we have time for one more? Okay. WOMAN: You’re my hero. You’re totally my hero. We utilized your program
last summer, and my son and I drove there. So he had a very colorful past, and we’ve been dealing with this
addiction for 17 years. So to walk through your door
and to be welcome was a huge thing for him, and it was a step to his
recovery, like I believe it. The second step
to his recovery– because it didn’t work
that round, right– was the Office of PAATHS
in Boston. PAATHS is… between Gloucester,
your program, and the PAATHS office that
the City of Boston runs is just…
it’s beyond the pale. Fantastic for people
in addiction. People keep talking
about there’s no beds, right? There’s no follow-through. So you get kicked out
of the detox, you might be lucky
if you find a bed in a CSS or a TSS, right? So you’re kicked to the street. But a Gloucester program
or a PAATHS program allows these people to go back
the next day and be safe, right? We don’t offer that anywhere
in the state. I am from Cape Cod,
and we are that movie, “Heroin on Cape Cod,”
where we’re all dying, right? We have the number one… that’s
our claim to fame right now. We’ve got the highest rate
of death on Cape Cod. I met with the commissioner, the commissioner of the
Department of Public Health, with one of the state reps to find out how can we get
a PAATHS office on Cape Cod. There’s no desire in this state
because we don’t have providers. It’s about private money. So like, Chief, talk to me,
or somebody talk to me, help me. I’ve got a petition out there,
I’ve got 1,000 signatures. I’ve got 500 online, 1,000 in hard copy
to bring to the governor so that we can get
a PAATHS program started, you know, satellite it
on Cape Cod, you know, something similar, and then let’s get it
across the state. You shouldn’t have to have
all of us coming and dying, driving to your station. It’s not right. We shouldn’t be having
to have all the people on Cape Cod
and elsewhere in the state driving to the PAATHS office. That’s the city of Boston. But that’s what we’re doing
because our kids are dying. And when you’re on Cape Cod,
you don’t have anything. There’s only two…
the one treatment program there has two beds for public health. And I volunteer for a homeless
advocacy group myself. I’ve had to evict four people
last winter because they were using heroin,
and I begged them, I told them to come with me
and I’ll get them to PAATHS, and they wouldn’t do it. They said they’d go to,
you know, Gosnold. That’s a joke
because they don’t help, there’s nothing there. They’re private pay,
they’re going for the money. So talk to me, tell me,
how can I do it? How can we get something? You know, you have more
of a position. I’m just a mother of a guy
that’s in recovery, you know? I’m not really anybody
with any clout. How do we get…
how do we change the people, the commonality of it,
you know, with the politicians
or whatever, the desire and the will? I look at the deputy
commissioner and I said to her,
“What do you mean it’s private?” “You know, that’s not how…
there’s no providers down there. They’re not bidding on it.” “Well, then why
doesn’t the state do it?” “Well, that’s not our model.” “That’s not our business model”
is what was told to me. And God love her,
she’s a lovely woman, I’m so grateful that
she met with me, and her spirit’s
in the right place, and she’s got
a wonderful history, right? But our model is such that
it’s only for private? Meanwhile, we can have people
dying on the street with no recourse? It’s not right. So just I need help, you know? How do you do it? CAMPANELLO: First of all, I don’t mean to overstep my
boundaries in law enforcement. We don’t… we don’t… you know, we found
all these barriers, and so I’m speaking about them
as we found them, meaning, yeah,
there’s no sustainable care, there’s no immediate care. So I think these connections
we’re making– you know, law enforcement, and of course
the treatment centers that have been there a long time
that are doing the right thing– you know, interconnectedness and
getting into more communities. There’s a police department in every single community
in Massachusetts. There’s not a resource
in every single community, but those two entities
can talk to each other and try to create that
infrastructure. And enough people
start talking about it, which is where
I think we are now– we’re at critical mass– that you’re going to see
a tipping point, I hope, and that tipping point gets to immediate
and sustainable care. The doctor is completely right. You know, the Gloucester program
at first, we had no idea
what we were doing. We just wanted to bring you
to the emergency room, which is the last place
you want to be if you’re an addicted person. More often, we found out, “Look, we have to be responsible
for the intake, then the CSS/TSS beds,
then an outpatient program.” This is a disease of remission, goes on for the rest
of your life, and so I think
we’re working towards that by making these connections and by really having
a bigger voice. And the Stigma campaign,
as the doctor said, that the governor is working on,
hopefully takes off more, more people become aware. The very sad reality is that
more people are dying, and that’s causing more people to become interested
in this topic, and that is really, really sad,
but that’s the reality. So hopefully,
we’re at that stage where we are now ready as
a community, as a Commonwealth, to say, “No, here’s where
it’s going to start to end.” So I don’t have any hard and
fast answers from my viewpoint, but I think we’re getting there. I talked to the community health
center that’s nearest your area, and so part of what I do know is
with the current administration, there are funds that are coming
into community health centers to expand our capacity to do
substance abuse treatment, so that may be an avenue
to continue to work with your health center
to try to pursue that. We’re all invested and all really trying
to step up the way in which we are providing
treatment and services, and so there’s funding
that’s coming and that has come already. So, I mean,
perhaps work with them. They also have the political ear
in many ways to see what can happen. It may not be a PAATHS program,
but it may be a program that develops out
of the community health center that can provide better access
and better resources than what you currently have. FEATHERS: All right,
how are we doing on time here? All right, we have one more. We have a lot more. (indistinct audio) …in the North Shore. We have seen many, many, many
families going through this. When the economy declined,
we saw so much increase. And we have done a study
trying to map where the highest rate was
happening of kids that were dying. Other kids went to college,
got their degree, came back, couldn’t find work. They got into drugs. Until we realize and we
pay attention to what is happening, I think we
have become… of individualism or where we do not pay attention
to the neighbors and what is happening around us. Texting, phone calls, we’ve got
to have a conversation and get people together. We’ve got to check
on our neighbors and see what is happening. When you talk to these kids
or these individuals that are going through
drug abuse, they tell you they feel lonely,
that they feel rejected, that they feel that they have
been left behind. And I think we are in a position
at this point where we need to take
responsibility to reach out to each other. I think where… I’m coming
from Guinea, from a society where you check
with people. That to me was shocking
that we don’t. (audio indistinct) …privacy and regulations and the teacher is supposed
to tell the parents… (indistinct) So I think it’s a lot of work
we need to do. We need to allow kids to talk and we need to talk to the
legislator and school principal and everybody to say,
“If this kid in my class “is dealing with any issue, “I will take responsibility
to take it. And if that’s a crime,
then I will be arrested.” Because if we don’t take
that lead when we start talking about it,
it’s going to get worse. (applause) I think that’s it. I want to thank everybody again: Doctor, Chief,
the audience, the Institute, thank you so much. (applause)


  • Reply Johnny M January 26, 2017 at 9:13 pm


  • Reply Fireside Chat/ Mama Dee April 14, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Yall really think that your people will go to treatment and recover and go on to live happy, happy lives. When our people went to prison and ended up with felons and their lives ruined. Really!!!

  • Reply Eduardo Orozco September 3, 2019 at 7:55 am

    this whole experience was just beautiful and uplifting. people die out here, isnt that crazy???? MAMMA MIA

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