Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

May 22, 2014

More help needed to fight drug addiction

(Continued)

Meanwhile, Fire Chief Mike Mansfield has led the way locally in the use of Narcan, a nasal spray that snaps heroin overdose victims back to life by restoring their breathing. Since it was put in ambulances and fire trucks in early April, it has been used at least twice to bring people back from the brink of death. A 21-year-old man was revived at the La Quinta Hotel on May 1 and a 30-year-old man was brought back to life just a few days later, after overdosing in a Main Street apartment.

Police are also being trained and should have the nasal spray kits in cruisers within a month or so. Police also offered Narcan training for families of addicts at a forum at the police station earlier this week.

Town Meeting also responded by funding a new employee for Andover Youth Services who will specialize in helping teenagers and their families dealing with drug addiction.

Even kids are getting involved.

In December, the Townsman published a letter from a group of eighth-graders at Doherty Middle School imploring the chief to install the drop box. Their plea was answered and the drop box was installed. They are getting their picture taken with Keefe this week.

While all of this is positive, it is happening seemingly without the input of the town’s elected and appointed officials. The fire chief took it upon himself to put Narcan in all of the town’s emergency vehicles. The police chief took it upon himself, at the urging of eighth-graders, perhaps, to install a drop box at the station and conduct Narcan training for citizens.

The hiring of a new town worker to deal with drug addiction issues was only accomplished after elected officials heard the outcry in the community and responded accordingly — forcing the town manager to cut his budget in other places to fund the position.

And there is much more to be done. The town needs to involve the schools and the Health Department, not to mention local hospitals and other nonprofit groups, in the fight against drug addiction.

It is understandable that drugs and addiction are difficult subjects to confront. But sticking their collective heads in the sand is no way for town officials to deal with it.

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