Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

April 17, 2014

Funding for drug counselor a must

Finally, Andover leaders are at least talking about getting serious about the problem of opiate abuse and heroin addiction.

At recent meetings, the Board of Selectmen have taken up the cause championed by Andover Youth Services Executive Director Bill Fahey, who wants to hire someone to help families in town coping with the ravages of drug and alcohol abuse among adolescents, teens and young adults.

Last year, two young people died from heroin overdoses in Andover.

Fire Chief Mike Mansfield said that during all of last year, there were eight overdoses. While that number seems high, this year is on pace to be even worse, as Andover tied that figure by the end of March.

It was one of the reasons Mansfield was prompted to place Narcan in town ambulances and eventually every Fire Department vehicle in town. Narcan, a nasal spray, revives overdose victims and essentially brings them back to life.

Selectmen are hoping to do the same thing with Fahey’s proposal.

Originally, Fahey, who was hired 20 years ago in the face of a suicide epidemic, put in for two, new positions in his budget: an office assistant and a program coordinator. Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski said “no” to the more costly program coordinator, reasoning that a new office assistant could free up Fahey and his staff to work with families and addicts seeking answers.

Whether it was an office assistant, a program coordinator, or, as it’s now evolved into — a social worker — Fahey said he needed the extra person because he wants to try to get ahead of the problem of addiction in town.

“This was a proactive solution that would help the community,” Fahey said. “I made a request, based on what we’ve been seeing all over the Merrimack Valley, not just in Andover. It was a support position — a youth services worker who would develop proactive programming for young people with a variety of problems.”

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