The opioid crisis is attacking communities everywhere, including Upton, where the town has created a task force in an attempt to combat the growing problem.
Members of the Opioid task force; Upton Police Chief Bradley, Amy Leone of Community Impact Incorporated in Milford, Al Holman of the Upton Board of Health, and Mendon-Upton Regional School District Superintendent Joseph Maruszczak, joined the Selectmen to discuss publicly what they can do together to raise awareness and help the community.
Selectmen Picard said the task force was created to help citizens with the opioid epidemic. The task force will make available resources and information for members of the community.
Chief Bradley reported he has been working with Amy Leone of Community Impact to provide training and resources for his officers to help combat the issue. Bradley said, with the help of Leone, his officers are aware of the resources that are available for people who are battling addiction or have overdosed.
Bradley said, “All of our officers have been carrying Narcan for a little bit over a year now. We have used that out in the field, and that’s gone well.”
According to Bradley, he will be working with Glenn Fowler to create public safety announcements. The announcements will cover the Good Samaritan Law and share what services are available through Community Impact. The department will also be utilizing social media to bring awareness to the community.
Bradley will continue to encourage residents to get rid of old medicine by dropping it in the medication drop box located at the police station.
Amy Leone advised in addition to Community Impact, she also runs the Juvenile Advocacy Group. “We hear a lot of what is being done at the state level but we really need to look at what we can do here,” said Leone.
Community Impact will be starting drop-in centers which will have a host of information and resources. According to Leone, therapists will be available to help anyone who is struggling with an addiction and wants to get help. They will also have the ability to help a family member that comes in and says “what do I do.”
Al Holman of the Board of Health said the state is now describing the opioid epidemic as a “crisis”. Holman said the BOH will “throw as many resources out there as we can to try and help resolve it and be involved.”
“The bottom line, it’s about education,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Maruszczak. “We work K-12 throughout our curriculum, obviously developmentally appropriate, around good decision-making and pro-social behaviors,” he said.
Good decision making is embedded throughout the district’s curriculum starting at the elementary level with the KCR Club (kind, caring, respectful) and grows through Rachel’s Challenge program at the middle school.
Maruszczak said when students reach middle and high school more specific information is shared about drugs. The district had Chris Herren come and give a presentation to the high school a few years ago and recently had Chris Sullivan present to the middle school. “The programs are wonderful but the messaging has to be continuing and consistent,” said Maruszczak
Selectman Picard took a moment to speak personally. “My son has an addiction. He has gone through treatment and recovery and he is doing very well,” said Picard, but as a parent, “it can be scary and like walking down a dark tunnel.”
“Having resources readily available is key to the parents, child, adult, or whoever has suffered from the addiction,” said Picard. “The hardest thing is to know where to reach out and how to get the help,” he said.
The Upton Board of Selectmen will now be able to provide resources for members of the community who are struggling and their families.
Picard stressed it’s important to take the condition “away from shame and blame and treat it as a condition that needs help.”
Selectman Brochu commended Picard for his strength and drive and for what he is doing to help others in the community. Brochu emphasized the importance of education. Brochu reminded residents if they are gong through this, they don’t have to go through it alone.
Selectman Fleming was pleased to see members of the community engage in the same common good. “Many times people don’t understand what government can do but this is a perfect example,” he sai.
“I think it’s a tremendous thing we are doing,” said Picard.