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November 8, 2018
by Adam Silva
Joanne Peterson knows firsthand the challenges that come with having a child struggle with drug addiction.
Peterson, the executive director of Learn to Cope, founded the program to help families in crisis in 2004 “out of desperation” to help her son who was battling a serious drug problem.
Learn to Cope was one of the organizations on hand on Oct. 24 in Hanover to discuss teen opioid prevention with a crowd of 30 people.
“Meetings like this are extremely important to the community and I wish they were more advertised so more people knew about them,” said Pat Moskowitz, a representative from Lean to Cope. “I really think this should have been a standing room only meeting. The overdose numbers are probably low because of Narcan. I believe there are a lot more overdoses that aren’t reported. They should be, but probably aren’t.”
Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz helps organize a drug abuse task force meeting every other month and invites people who can bring in new ideas to address the issue. Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald, Hanover Police Chief Walter Sweeney and Team Sharing Inc. representative Cynthia Wyman were on hand at the meeting. State Rep. David DeCoste hosted the meeting.
“We do forums throughout the county when requested and we bring people in to talk about the problems and issues that we are facing,” said Cruz during the meeting at Center School in Hanover. “It’s gr
“We do forums throughout the county when requested and we bring people in to talk about the problems and issues that we are facing,” said Cruz during the meeting at Center School in Hanover. “It’s great to get the community involved and there were a lot of good questions tonight about what is going on with our county.”
Cruz told those in attendance that opioid addiction “doesn’t have a zip code, doesn’t matter if you’re in a city or town and doesn’t matter at all where you are.”
It can affect anyone, he said, including the families and loved ones of those who become addicted.
Cruz said the number of fatal overdoses have decreased in Massachusetts in the last year, one of only five states in the country to see a reduction in deaths. However, Cruz said non-fatal overdoses still continue to be a problem and the state and country still have a long way to go.
So far in 2018, Plymouth County has seen 1,350 total overdoses, with 96 of the overdoses fatal. In 2017 all together in Plymouth County, 1,757 overdoses were reported with 147 of them fatal.
In Hanover specifically in 2017, 10 overdoses were reported with only one of them reported as fatal. Four were reported in Hanover in 2018 with no fatalities, according to Cruz’s office.
One of the potential reasons for fewer fatal overdoses could be the increased presence of Narcan, a nasal spray that can stop overdoses from becoming fatal.
Moskowitz said more and more people are administering Narcan on each other, which she believes is a good thing, but is still under-reported. If possible, she would like even more people to have access to Narcan, which is distributed at Learn to Cope meetings.
Peterson said they are able to provide training on how to use Narcan at Learn to Cope meetings thanks to the state’s board of health.
In addition to meetings, Learn to Cope, which was started in Randolph and now has 25 chapters throughout the state, has a message board that has over 10,000 members, according to Peterson.
“We haven’t seen things really slow down at all and it’s not just opiates because there are so many other drugs,” said Peterson. “Stimulants like Adderall are coming into the picture, along with things that are prescribed such as Gabapentin, which can be highly abused. It’s not just opiates that are being abused. I have watched the shift in over-prescribing and not safely prescribing.”
Two previous meetings were held at St. Mary’s Church, according to DeCoste. DeCoste said the meeting was held at Center School due to its recent renovation.
Follow Adam Silva on Twitter @AdamSMariner.