Krystle Kincaid of Berkshire Harm Reduction tells the City Council about finding fentanyl and xlyazine in drug samples.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Berkshire County had 47 fatal overdoses in 2022, a dozen of them in North County. Of those, eight occurred in North Adams.
One way to stop the deaths is Narcan, said Krystle Kincaid, prevention services supervisor at Berkshire Harm Reduction. "We're literally trying to give it to everybody."
Narcan is the brand name of naloxone, an over-the-counter drug that can reverse an opioid overdose by blocking the drug's effects within three minutes.
"It's the easiest thing to use. It has no adverse effects. You can give it to anybody," she told the City Council on Tuesday night. "And if they're not having an opioid overdose, they're gonna get a wet nose. That's it. It's just like Afrin (a nasal decongestant)."
Kincaid was speaking to the council at the behest of Councilor Andrew Fitch.
"We have several issues that affect our community. One of the largest is addiction, is overdose deaths," he said. "And so I thought it was really worth having a presentation tonight to go through the facts and figures. If we can learn a little bit more about this to help kind of cut through the stigma, educate ourselves and, hopefully, also help solve this problem."
Each councilor was given a kit with two doses of Narcan, cardiopulmonary resuscitation face shield and instructions. Kincaid said the kits are available free at Berkshire Harm Reduction's office at 6 West Main St. There are also Narcan boxes around the city.
The program, which operates under the Berkshire Health Systems umbrella, provides syringe access and disposal, Narcan training and overdose prevention education, safer supplies, risk reduction counseling, and testing for HIV, Hep C, and STIs among other services.
"Anybody can come in and bring a substance to be tested," Kincaid said, adding that a majority of samples in North County samples have fentanyl in them, including cocaine and crack.
Fentanyl is a very potent synthetic opioid that when added to drugs is a major driver in overdose deaths. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that synthetic opioids are responsible for more than 150 fatal overdoses a day.
Another growing problem is the addition of xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer, in illicit drugs. Kincaid said the drug can suppress blood pressure and cause cardiac arrest.
"If somebody overdoses off an opiate, Narcan is not working for the fact that xylazine is not an opiate, it's a stimulant," Kincaid said. "What we're finding with that is we're having a lot more overdoses, it's taking a lot more Narcan for somebody to finally get out of that."
Councilor Peter Breen asked Mayor Jennifer Macksey what the protocol is in the schools for Narcan. The mayor said the school resource officer carries Narcan and she believes the nurses do as well.
Councilor Deana Morrow, who works in addiction recovery, commended the work of Berkshire Harm Reduction, noting its staff has provided training at Keenan House North. Councilor Ashley Shade said she would like the city's IDEA Commission to have some training.
"This is an extremely important thing for anybody to know. Because, as has been said repeatedly, just knowing the steps and having this available can and will save lives," she said.
"I know there are some members of the community that don't believe in the use of Narcan but if you can save a life, maybe giving that person the new opportunity to be able to get away from the the opiates and to be able to recover and be able to lead a normal life further on," said Council President Bryan Sapienza. "It's a terrible epidemic and just never know when you're going to be in a situation where you're going to provide this life-saving service."
The council also passed to a second reading and to be published the repeal of three sections of the secondhand dealer ordinance and the addition of one sentence.
"The following sentence was added that all business certificate application and fees shall replace the current secondhand license," said Councilor Ashley Shade, who brought the matter forward. "It would essentially eliminate the requirement of having a secondary license for secondhand stores."
The General Government Committee had recommended the deletion of the secondhand dealer regulations as outdated and unfair. Shade said signing a business certificate (as all businesses are required to do) would put a signature on file and would fulfill the requirements of Massachusetts law. This was also reviewed by the city solicitor.
"I look forward to moving forward with this and making it easier for secondhand stores and dealers and businesses to operate around in the city," Shade said.
Councilor Keith Bona removed himself from the council area during the discussion and vote as he is owner of Berkshire Emporium, which sells secondhand items.
In other business, the council:
• Confirmed the reappointments of Christa Sprague to the Human Services Commission for a term to end Jan. 1, 2027; Amanda Hartlage and Desiree Taylor to the IDEA Commssion for a terms to end Feb. 8, 2027; Jason Moran to the Mass MoCA Commission for a term to end Feb. 1, 2027; Williams Shanahan to the Youth Commission with a term ending on Feb. 28, 2027; and Jesse Lee Egan Poirer and Lisa Blackmer (who abstained) to the Planning Board with terms to end on Feb. 1, 2029.
• Approved applications by Mekayla Bailey and Theresa M. Wheeler for licenses to drive for RJ's Taxi.
• Approved a new utility pole at 24 North Church St., 50 feet south of Pole 3. Designated as Pole 3.1, it is being installed to bring service to the Tower and Porter Block at 34-36 Eagle St.
National Grid representative Michael Tatro said the current setup would not safely support the energy needs of the building once renovated. The pole installation and hookup is being covered by the building's owner.
Councilor Wayne Wilkinson was the lone vote in opposition, saying, "there's no such thing as North Church Street."
The street from Monument Square to the intersection with Eagle has long been called "North" and is used by the post office and some local and state entities but is not in the city's list of streets or on the state's GIS system.
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How can women bridge the retirement gap?
Submitted by Edward Jones
March 8 is International Women's Day, a day for celebrating all the accomplishments of women around the globe. But many women still need to make up ground in one key area: retirement security.
Women's challenges in achieving a secure retirement are due to several factors, including these:
Pay gap – It's smaller than it once was, but a wage gap still exists between men and women. In fact, women earn, on average, about 82 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to the Census Bureau. And even though this gap narrows considerably at higher educational levels, it's still a source of concern. Women who earn less than men will likely contribute less to 401(k) plans and will ultimately see smaller Social Security checks.
Longer lives – At age 65, women live, on average, about 20 more years, compared to almost 17 for men, according to the Social Security Administration. Those extra years mean extra expenses.
Caregiving responsibilities – Traditionally, women have done much of the caregiving for young children and older parents. And while this caregiving is done with love, it also comes with financial sacrifice. Consider this: The average employment-related costs for mothers providing unpaid care is nearly $300,000 over a lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Labor — which translates to a reduction of 15 percent of lifetime earnings. Furthermore, time away from the workforce results in fewer contributions to 401(k) and other employer-sponsored retirement plans.
Ultimately, these issues can leave women with a retirement security deficit. Here are some moves that can help close this gap:
Contribute as much as possible to retirement plans. Try to contribute as much as you can afford to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. Your earnings can grow tax deferred and your contributions can lower your taxable income. (With a Roth 401(k), contributions aren't deductible, but earnings and withdrawals are tax free, provided you meet certain conditions.) At a minimum, contribute enough to earn your employer's matching contribution, if one is offered, and try to boost your contributions whenever your salary goes up. If you don't have access to a 401(k), but you have earned income, you can contribute to an IRA. Even if you don't have earned income, but you have a spouse who does, you might be eligible to contribute to a spousal IRA.
Maximize Social Security benefits. You can start taking Social Security at 62, but your monthly checks will be much bigger if you can afford to wait until your full retirement age, which will be around 66½. If you are married, you may want to coordinate your benefits with those of your spouse — in some cases, it makes sense for the spouse with the lower benefits to claim first, based on their earnings record, and apply for spousal benefits later, when the spouse with higher benefits begins to collect.
Build an emergency fund. Try to build an emergency fund containing up to six months' worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid account. Having this fund available will help protect you from having to dip into your retirement accounts for large, unexpected costs, such as a major home or car repair.
It's unfortunate, but women still must travel a more difficult road than men to reach retirement security. But making the right moves can help ease the journey.
Growing up in Boston, he majored in biology at Boston College, where he also lettered in football for the Eagles. He would go on to Tufts Medical School but took a year off graduate school and taught during the busing crisis of the 1970s.
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