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Candlelight vigil highlights community-wide anti-drug effort

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  August 1, 2011 05:11 PM

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Over 650 people are expected to attend a candlelight vigil for victims of substance abuse on Aug. 5, highlighting the number of people affected by the city’s biggest drug problem – opiate addiction.

According to Arlene Goldstein, the Program Coordinator for MassCALL2 (Massachusetts Collaborative for Action, Leadership, and Learning grant), Quincy is among the top 10 municipalities that have had the most opiate deaths in Massachusetts.

It’s an epidemic that Impact Quincy, through the use of a grant, has been trying to control for the past three years.

“[It’s been] a lot of raising of awareness, making more people realize what’s going on, making more people realize who this effects: the average middle class people, people who work hard all their lives, [they are] some who can fall into this pit,” Goldstein said.

MassCALL2 was funded by the Department of Public Health in 2009, giving Quincy and 15 other communities $125,000 each for three years to collectively bring awareness and help stem opiate addiction.

Quincy has made strides, Goldstein said. Through drug take-back days, community presentations, and Med Return boxes at numerous local police stations, awareness of opiate abuse is on the rise.

As 25 percent of children first start abusing drugs through the medicine cabinet, the importance of the initiatives cannot be underscored enough, Goldstein said.

In addition, the Quincy Police have been authorized to use Narcan Nasal Spray, a receptor inhibitor spray that knocks the drug inhibitors off the receptors in the brain, knocking someone off their high.

Out of 64 opiate overdoses in the city since October 2010, Narcan has saved 30 lives, Quincy Police Department Detective Lieutenant Patrick Glenn said.

Additionally, out of those overdoses, there have been a total of eight deaths, he said.

This candlelight vigil will continue along those same lines of previous events sponsored by the organization, which will help bring awareness about the work still to be done.

Even more importantly, Goldstein said, is that this program will help many to come together to mourn.

“This came about from parents in our coalition who have a direct connection to the issue from children and family members,” Goldstein said.

The Mayor will be in attendance of the vigil, which will be held outside Quincy City Hall from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday.

According to Christopher Walker, the mayoral spokesperson, the issue of opiate abuse is something that still needs to be addressed.

“This is an issue that needs to be, and is being, addressed,” Walker said.

Events like this only highlight the community need for the Mayor’s Drug Task Force, started when the mayor took office in 2008. The collaboration of numerous organizations has helped save lives, Walker said, and the city has made great strides in dealing with the drug problem.

“This is a community wide issue, it has effected every neighborhood in the city….it’s important for city government to acknowledge the problem and do whatever they can to stem it,” he said.

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