Now Playing: An End To Stigma

Now Playing: An End To Stigma 

Addiction poster hung up at cinema

1/27/2016
Andrew Mansfield, Reporter

GARDNER  The local effort to raise awareness for the state’s campaign to end the stigma against those struggling with substance abuse just became much more visible.

Just a few months after many area leaders gathered at City Hall to declare Gardner a city without stigma, the Gardner Community Action Team unveiled its “State Without Stigma” poster at the Gardner Cinemas on Tuesday afternoon. 

Several city officials and workers in the addiction treatment field gathered and spoke at the event, as well as state Rep. Jon Zlotnik, D-Gardner. 

“I think this program rocks. It really is pointing out something that is necessary,” said City Councilor Nathan Boudreau, adding that having a punitive attitude toward addicts makes their struggle “much worse than it needs to be.” 

News staff photo by JIM FAY Unveiling an addiction anti-stigma poster at Gardner Cinemas on Tuesday, from left, are Michael Duggan (whose photo is on the poster); Veronika Patty of the Gardner Community Action Team; Michelle Dunn, president of the AED Foundation; Mayor Mark Hawke; state Rep. Jon Zlotnik, D-Gardner; Gardner Health Director Bernie Sullivan; and Shawn Hayden of GAAMHA.

News staff photo by JIM FAY Unveiling an addiction anti-stigma poster at Gardner Cinemas on Tuesday, from left, are Michael Duggan (whose photo is on the poster); Veronika Patty of the Gardner Community Action Team; Michelle Dunn, president of the AED Foundation; Mayor Mark Hawke; state Rep. Jon Zlotnik, D-Gardner; Gardner Health Director Bernie Sullivan; and Shawn Hayden of GAAMHA

Mike Duggan, co-founder of the Healing Hills Village detox and recovery center in West­minster, has been in recovery since April 2009 from an addiction that began with a prescription for the opioid Percocet to relieve pain from an injury he suffered playing high school hockey.

He said he recalls experiencing the shame and guilt that surrounds addiction, which extended to his family, as his mother worried that other parents would blame her for the circumstance he was in.

He said he hopes the poster can serve as a “conversation starter” among people, in particular for those who see addiction primarily as a disease to speak with those who still view it primarily as a lifestyle choice. 

“They can use that opportunity to educate them and possibly be able to change their understanding of addiction,” he said. 

Through increased awareness, he said the public can understand that addiction is first and foremost a public health crisis, more so than being a criminal justice problem, leading to further advocacy.

Mayor Mark Hawke piggybacked off that point, saying that “the best way to address the problem” is for residents to begin to realize how common it is for community members to deal with addiction, and embrace an effort to help them recover instead of shame them. 

Zlotnik spoke about the Legislature’s efforts to bring the state’s policies “out of the dark ages” when it comes to treating addiction and preventing it, but stressed that everyone needs to “buy-in” to the cause. 

“There’s only so much we can do in the State House without people in the trenches doing what you do every day. It’s really important the community is right there in this effort,” he said, referencing the work of area nonprofit organizations such as the Assist Educate Defeat Foundation (A.E.D.).

GAAMHA Chief Operating Officer and A.E.D. Director Shawn Hayden echoed Zlotnik’s sentiments that law reforms alone cannot solve the issue, saying a lot more change can be made when the entire community works together.

He said that approaches to treating and preventing addiction need to be multifaceted, covering the physical, psychological and social factors that all can contribute to a person’s substance use. 

“What makes addiction unique is its comprehensive nature; solutions need to be comprehensive to match,” he said. 

Gardner Director of Public Health Bernard Sullivan called addiction a “widespread problem,” for which the city needs to combine its attention with other organizations. 

He explained that the Gardner Community Action Team is a “host agency” for collaboration between nonprofits, faith-based groups, law enforcement officials, health officials and schools.

“The idea is by getting (multiple) sectors involved, everyone brings their own expertise to the table,” he said. 

Action Team Coalition Coordinator Veronika Patty said in addition to ending stigma, the main idea behind the group renting the space at the theater for the poster was to “promote local services and providers.” 

Next to the poster, the Action Team has provided fliers that list local resources for detox, counseling and recovery support services for addicts and their families, along with the warning signs of substance abuse people should look for.

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