North Adams Vigil Brings Drug Prevention Groups Together

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The council had light meeting, postponing a traffic issue to November and a taxi license to the next meeting.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city on Thursday night will join other communities across the nation for the 7th annual Candlelight Vigil of Healing and Remembrance to remember those lost to substance abuse and celebrate those in recovery.

The vigil, to be held at the Noel Field walking track beginning at 7 p.m., is a kick off of sorts to call attention to the groups started locally within the last year to combat substance abuse, Mayor Richard Alcombright told the City Council on Tuesday night. 
"The prescription drug and heroin abuse working group we put together has been working very hard to try to find solutions and ways to get the word out in the community, and raise awareness and education about drug addictions and abuse issues and really attack the drug problem in our community," he said. 
Several other efforts have started, including the Have Hope Initiative and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's nb21 group.
The mayor, in reading a proclamation declaring "Recovery Day" on Thursday, said 169 overdose deaths have occurred in Berkshire County since 2000 and that drug overdoses are now second only to car crashes in fatalities.
Some 45 percent of children who try prescription drugs before the age of 15 become addicted and 2,000 teens try prescription drugs each day in the United States; 28,000 die annually from unintentional poisonings.
The coalition's Lois Daunis said this is the 7th national vigil but the first time the city is participating. 
"I hope it's a time not only for people to put some closure to times in their lives when they lost someone to a drug-related incident but also recovery. We have many members in our community who are in recovery," she said. "We not only mourn the loss but we celebrate the recovery."
Daunis said the prescription drug and heroin group has been developing informational brochures, advocating for treatment centers and seeking to educate people about the dangers of prescription drugs and opiods. It includes educating parents about the need to get rid of old medications and secure any new ones, training for pharmacists to be more aware of abuses and lobbying pharmaceuticals to produce medications that are less addictive.
"I am hard pressed to think there isn't anyone that you know, that we know, that in your own family that doesn't face the disease of addiction at some level," said the mayor, encouraging residents to attend the vigil.
Lois Daunis spoke of some of the efforts of the prescription drug abuse group.
Councilor Jennifer Breen said it was important that North Adams Regional Hospital continue providing mental health services. Breen had brought the issue up during Councilor's Concerns and reiterated her point after the mayor's proclamation.
The hospital is looking to close the in-patient mental health services at the Greylock Pavilion and move to an outpatient model, with more serious cases being transported to Pittsfield, because of financial considerations. The Massachusetts Nurses Association is opposing the move, warning patients may be left on the street or incarcerated.
The state is holding a public hearing on Friday, Nov. 1, at 1:30 p.m. at the American Legion to take testimony on the hospital's proposed changes. 
"I really appreciate the proclamation, I just want to make sure that we're on top of the services staying in North Adams. Of the important services we have, we don't have enough and there is a direct correlation between proper mental health treatment and drug abuse treatment and a reduction in crime," she said. "We have to lobby them to make them understand what the people of North Adams really wants from the hospital. 
Alcombright said he has been "actively working" with state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, and hospital officials. 
"This will be a very good meeting for folks to attend. People should voice their opinions," he said, referring to the hearing. "With that said, I think we should keep an open mind about the reality of keeping the hospital in the city of North Adams. We have to balance some of these things and think these things through."

Tags: drug abuse,   drug awareness,   drug prevention,   NARH,   prescription drugs,   vigil,   

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