HOPE Drug Forum Draws ‘Big Turnout’

Photographs courtesy of Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini

A number of Haverhill residents turned out at Consentino School Wednesday night to hear local authorities and others talk of ways to combat drug abuse, including heroin and other opioid addiction and overdosing. Overdoses during the past year have claimed the lives of nearly two dozen young persons locally.

The first public forum, or community information night held by the newly-created Haverhill Overdose Prevention and Education task force (HOPE), in conjunction with The Haverhill Public School Department and several community organizations, generated a “big turnout,” according to Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

The task force is made up of local human service agencies, school personnel, city officials, Haverhill Police Department personnel, Haverhill residents and other concerned individuals.

The evening included a panel discussion, a youth drug prevention presentation by Haverhill Schools and resource tables.

According to Haverhill Public Schools, attendees heard from panelists, including a 19-year-old survivor who shared his story of heroin abuse and recovery; Other panelists included Charles Rosa, a parent who lost two sons to drug addiction (chuckysfight.com); Steve Crowell of Greater Lawrence Family Health Center to educate about overdose and Narcan; Kim Boisselle, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the Structured Outpatient Addiction Program and chairwoman of HOPE. Representatives from Haverhill Police,  Haverhill Public Schools and the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery were also present.

In his recent end of year address to the Haverhill City Council, Fiorentini said the challenge in 2015 is the heroin epidemic, and “we will tackle that with the same energy that we tackled the gang violence issue.”

“Having 1,000 police is not going to solve the heroin epidemic. It is about education, and about treatment and about public health,” Fiorentini said.

Resources provided at the forum included guides and other materials from the Department of Public Health, YWCA Domestic Violence Services; TCA, Spectrum Methadone Clinic, Substance Use Navigation Project, Comfort Home Care, Holy Family Hospital, MOAR, and the Lawrence/Methuen Community Coalition.