Marblehead addiction fighters ask ‘If Only’

January 18, 2017

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD Marblehead will be showing a short film highlighting the dangers of prescription drug and opioid misuse and abuse next Tuesday.

The short film, “If Only,” will be shown at the Marblehead Veterans Middle School Performing Arts Center on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. The film was donated to the town by the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, whose mission is to improve the quality of life for inner city youth, and will be introduced by James Wahlberg, executive director.

The screening will encourage the safe use and disposal of drugs to keep them out of the hands of children. The film will be followed by an interactive discussion about drug use and addiction, featuring a panel of local experts.

Andrew Petty, Marblehead health director, said he’ll be part of the panel with Maureen Cavanagh, founder and president of Magnolia New Beginnings, Kristin Fraher, of the Essex County District Attorney’s office, a person in recovery, someone who’s lost a child to addiction, and Michael Duggan, founder of Wicked Sober.

Petty said the panel will talk about recovery, including how hard it is, how long it really takes and the pain people go through after losing a child. He said addiction is easier if it can be open and talked about, rather than people who are struggling and holding everything in. The discussion will also provide information on where to find a detox bed and where people can turn to for help.

“It’s hitting Massachusetts really hard, so there isn’t always a bed available,” Petty said. “It’s really important to get people into treatment as soon as possible.”

Marblehead Police Chief Robert Picariello said the panel discussion will focus on the opioid crisis. Questions will also be taken from the audience.

Picariello said there were 26 opioid overdoses in 2016 by 21 people. Four of those overdoses were fatal. The average age of victims was 33 years old. To contrast, in 2015, he said the department had three reported overdoses. This month, there have been two overdoses.

Picariello said the fatalities appear to be from heroin, but the overdoses are from a large family of opioids.

“We definitely saw an increase in 2016,” Picariello said. “It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen in 2017. The opioid working group in town is an effort to raise awareness and try to provide access to resources to prevent it from going up … My hope is that it will go down. I don’t know if that will happen though.”

The police chief said the decision to show the film grew out of the opioid working group, which is represented by all of the key town departments. He said the screening is another effort to raise public awareness. A big focus of the group, Picariello said, is to start a conversation about the opioid crisis and make residents realize that it’s not something that’s only happening somewhere else.

“It’s happening in Marblehead,” he said.

What usually happens, Petty said, is people start on prescription drugs after an accident or injury and get addicted. He said they find that opioid prescriptions are expensive and harder to get, so people eventually turn to heroin, which is much cheaper.

“In this area, we’re seeing a lot of heroin that is laced with fentanyl, (which) causes an overdose when people think they’re just taking opioids,” Petty said.

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Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.