Opiate Awareness Summit Explored Ways to Address Addiction
Members of the Lynn District Court Probation Department met with representatives from area law enforcement agencies, treatment providers, and community residents at the Greater Lynn Opiate Awareness Summit last Friday. They discussed ways to address opiate addiction which has claimed 35 lives and resulted in 250 heroin overdoses in the City of Lynn over the past year.
Organized by Lynn District Court Probation Officer Donald Castle, this first-time summit held at North Shore Community College’s Lynn campus drew an audience of more than 300 attendees. A post-summit meeting is scheduled for the end of the month to further discuss ways to address the problem. The rise in overdoses and deaths is the largest since the Lynn Police tracked opiate use in the city 20 years ago, according to Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger.
Among the summit’s featured speakers were Dr. Kelly Holland of the Lynn Community Health Center; Drug Court Judge James Lamonte; Mary Wheeler, Program Director of Healthy Streets Outreach, which runs mobile clinics; and Kevin Quinlan, a Supervisor in the Boston Region of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency).
Summit participants received overdose statistical data, details on how opiates enter the community, as well as information on treatment, according to Castle. The goals of the summit, Castle said, are to establish a working commission to address addiction, educate and help the families, as well as set-up re-integration programs to help individuals remain drug-free in the community.
“If we all come together as a united front, we can really have an impact on the heroin plague affecting our community,” said Castle.
Probation Commissioner Edward J. Dolan said, “This summit is an important step in a comprehensive partnership that includes a range of Essex County and Lynn specific stakeholders that have come together to address the issue of opiate addiction in their community.”
Lynn District Court Chief Probation Officer Ronald Lennon said of the conference, “The summit is a way to bring the community together to develop a greater understanding of the increase in heroin use and the options available to families to combat this disease.”
Police Chief Coppinger said the 35 fatal overdoses have had a huge impact on the city and require immediate action. “We had to come together to find the best possible solution to reduce the impact on human life,” he said.
Timothy Lawrence, the father of a 21-year-old woman who suffered a fatal overdose in 2003, spoke about the need for this type of summit.
“Once my daughter tried oxycontin, there was no turning back. As a family, it is devastating. We called from morning to night to get her a (detox) bed. We wanted her to go into recovery, but she had to want to do it. There were many times I would find her a bed on the Cape or in Rhode Island and by the time I got home, she was already there. At the end, my daughter tried, but it just was not meant to be,” Lawrence said.
“She went to private school, played sports. She could have been anything she wanted to be. It’s been 12 years since her death. She would have been 33 years old. At every family event, we wish she were here and we miss her even more.”