Anti-drug coalition marks first year

Katie Landeck
News Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER - Dozens of people from the substance abuse community met Tuesday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Montachusett Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition and to reflect on the progress in the field.

“When I first started this work, I thought it was basically hopeless,” said Gardner Director of Public Health Bernard Sullivan, who emceed the event.

But now, Mr. Sullivan and several others said they are starting to see signs of the changes they have been waiting for.

The coalition works in Fitchburg, Leominster, Athol, Gardner and the surrounding communities. Over this past year, the organization has convinced local law enforcement to start carrying the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan, trained 200 community members in the use of Narcan, promoted awareness through education, helped remove unused prescription medication from the streets through Take Back Days, and brought the Learn to Cope group to Gardner, after several years of waiting.

“I am not surprised at the amount of initiatives we have been involved in, because we have communities who are ready to address the issue of opioid abuse and misuse,” said coalition grant program director Sue Christensen.
  

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News Staff Photo by KATIE LANDECK

Athol and Gardner have a rate of prescriptions per resident, according to data collected by Brandeis University senior scientist Peter Kreiner.

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News Staff Photo by KATIE LANDECK


Bureau of Substance Abuse Services program developer Sarah Ruiz spoke about how services in northern Worcester County have expanded over the past year, pointing to more people being trained in the use of Narcan to save people who have overdosed and the new Learn to Cope support group in Gardner.

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