Worcester opiate addiction task force meeting

By Ron O’Clair

I found out about the first of four scheduled Opiate Addiction Task Force meetings by checking out this – Rosalie’s – InCity Times website to see how some of the stories I have been submitting have been coming along, and to see how my pictures looked on the website. I saw that she posted a public notice of the Opiate Addiction Task Force that was held this week at Quinsigamond Community College on West Boylston Street. Seeing as how this is a subject near and dear to my heart, I made sure that I could schedule time to attend.

As many of you InCity Times readers know, I have long been an advocate of giving the down and out a helping hand up, not a hand out, which they invariably use to further their addiction rather than to do their best to get well and return themselves to normal everyday people who are grateful for what they have. Anyone in the City of Worcester can take advantage of the programs that have been designed to help people get off illegal drugs and return to mainstream society.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services was represented at this meeting by Secretary Marylou Sudders who chaired the Task Force.

She introduced the speakers, including Worcester County District Attorney Joseph P. Early Jr. who spoke briefly about the role of the District Attorney’s Office in trying to focus on rehabilitation of chronic drug users that tend to clog up the courts with repeated charges of possession and the crimes they commit to support their drug habits.

The Worcester County High Sheriff, Lew Evangelidis, spoke about the Worcester County Jail and House of Correctionand what they have been doing to curb recidivism, and also help the inmates get into treatment for their drug addictions. His administration has been doing good things there.

The Secretary introduced Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito who spoke to the audience a bit about how the newly elected Massachusetts governor, Charlie D. Baker Jr., sees this problem for what it is and recognizes the need to focus our attention on treatment and rehabilitation, rather than continually wasting resources on incarceration.

So Governor Baker has initiated these discussions throughout the state and wants to hear the stories of the loved ones of the lost, the victims of spousal and family abuse related to drug addiction, and how often violence and crime are associated with the desire to acquire illegal drugs. At the cost of the family unit.

Governor Baker has set up three additional meetings like the one held in Worcester that was supposed to run from 4 – 6 p.m.  But due to the large turnout, and the number of people wishing to share their experiences, the meeting at the college was carried over an additional hour until 7 p.m., at which point it broke up.

Everyone that had been in line was given three minutes to say what it was they thought about the crisis of addiction and then to offer any suggestions that might make a difference.

William (Billy) Breault from the Main South Alliance for Public Safety was the first to be allowed to speak, and he reminded the panel not to pass any legislation that would politically validate anti-social behavior in the process.

Drugs are playing an ever increasing role in the breakdown of our society. There was an elderly gentleman named Sam (Bloomfield I believe he said his last name was) who has authored 10 books and was there at the ripe old age of 88 to remind us that when he was a youth, we as a society did not have the problems with drugs like we do today. Sam advocates for a return to the old ways.

I must say, I have been an advocate of that myself because the way I see it, we have been chasing rainbows of a utopian existence where everyone wants to be free to do what they want, while not having to be responsible for their actions at the same time.

In my days of growing up in Worcester, I saw what I can only describe as a gradual steady decline in morals, more and more people experimenting with hard-core addictive illegal substances, more and more deaths due to opiates, etc. Of course, there are those who have come to believe that they have the right to disturb the peace all night long while engaged in illegal activities associated with the criminal conspiracy to traffic in narcotics in my neighborhood here in the 700 block of Main Street, Main South.

There were a couple of speakers who wanted to ensure that the panel does not make it harder for the chronic sufferers of pain to be allowed to have the medicine they need to deal with it. One lady complained about how already in the last five years she has been having trouble with pharmacists due to the newer and more stringent laws regarding the dispensing of certain pain medication.

These people have legitimate illnesses or injuries that cause them excruciating agony, and there does need to be some type of provision set aside for those that fall into that category.

Many of the speakers told of loved ones who had been injured and prescribed pain medicine, only to be suddenly taken off their meds, without any weaning off period, and then to have their loved ones seek out street drugs like heroin as a substitute. BECAUSE THEY ARE ADDICTED. BIOLOGICALLY.  They get addicted to that drug and end up dying in their loved ones’ arms.

It was an awesome event – everyone came together and got a chance to share life stories and learn …

I had my turn at the microphone and related the fact that due to my unconventional methods of using social media with my video series, I have been having some success getting drug-addicted people to WANT to get better. I informed the panel that Samantha S. of one of my videos has been reunited with her family after being out on the streets for two years, is back in her three year old daughter’s life, and had publicly thanked me for posting that video. She credits the video for saving her life. I was thanked via email by Sheriff Evangelidis, as he knows the girl and her family. They grew up in the same neighborhood. It felt good to hear these positive statements!

Questions or comments, anyone? Please email them to ronaldoclair@hotmail.com