Every September, communities across the country partake in Recovery Month, a national observance founded to educate Americans on the lifechanging treatments and services available for those who have a mental or substance abuse disorder. While this month is critical for bringing awareness to societies everywhere, professionals in the medical and mental health fields, believe that recovery awareness and tackling risky behaviors in youth, is something that every community could benefit from on a daily basis.
“There are a lot of things to do to help young people who have struggles, but I personally feel that development and risky behavior in youth is something a lot of people don’t have skills to handle,” said LeighAnne Eruzione, Executive Director of CASA (Community Action for Safe Alternatives.)
Eruzione’s passion for recovery came from her own personal experience, when a friend of hers got addicted to pain medication after receiving a prescription for an injury. Recognized as an accomplished athlete with a healthy home life, Eruzione’s friend was similar to the many others who have ultimately lost their lives as a result of what started out as an innocent addiction.
“My friend was taking prescription drugs regularly and I missed all the signs,” said Eruzione. “I consider myself to be responsible and yet someone was doing this right in front of my face and I didn’t see it. I wanted to go into this field and bring this to the forefront, because I realized how easy it is to not recognize the signs of opioid addiction. For me, that was eye-opening.”
The number of opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts has had a drastic increase over the last seven years, jumping from 733 confirmed deaths in 2012 to 1,995 confirmed deaths in 2018.
Winthrop Public Health Nurse, Meredith Hurley, recognizes the shared purpose of prevention and recovery and the overall health of a community.
“Addressing primary prevention issues is key to building a healthy community,” said Hurley. “It’s important to provide our youth with healthy coping mechanisms and we need to expand recovery month, so it is something that we focus on throughout the year. The goal of starting now is to continue awareness and get more community invested in the dialogue. From there, we can present new opportunities, trainings and community events.”
Both Eruzione and Hurley believe that you can’t just focus on one month. The complexity of the issue can’t be truly embraced in 30 days.
“Our goal is to bridge the gap,” said Eruzione. “We feel like opiates and heroine is a valid concern in our community. The majority of individuals struggling with opiate addiction are around the median age of 55 years old, but it’s important for us to remember that these older individuals didn’t wake up one day addicted to drugs.”
Eruzione said that these lifestyles typically start years earlier with alcohol and marijuana.
“Alcohol consumption for a developing brain is a risky behavior, limited adult supervision is a risky behavior, marijuana consumption is a risky behavior, taking prescription drugs that someone has not prescribed is a risky behavior. The notion that certain parts of adolescence is a rite of passage is not setting up youth for success. There needs to be a cultural shift in how adults are supporting and encouraging young people and our joint mission is to start creating the dialogue on these key issues. For CASA and the Health Department, that starts with recovery month and their hope is the conversation with grow and foster throughout the year.”
Every week in September, CASA and the Health Department will highlight a member of the town’s primary and tertiary task force, on a mission to humanize those who are immersed in the recovery support system.
Recovery Month Events
Sept. 12 from 5-8 p.m. the community is invited to the Public Health Office (45 Pauline St., first-floor) to create your own paper mache candle holder in honor of someone you know that is struggling or lost their battle to addiction.
Week of Sept 16th-the town hall will be hosting a week-long candlelight vigil to honor those that struggle with mental and substance related issues as well as the individuals that our community has lost.
Throughout the month, both CASA and the Health Department will be using their social media platforms to share information, create awareness and to continue the necessary dialogue for change. Like them on Facebook to get the latest information. https://www.facebook.com/casawinthrop/
Sept. 28, 9 a.m/ –Walden Street basketball courts-The third annual “Ballin for a Cause” basketball tournament to support the recovery community in memory of Michael “Shrimp” Todisco. All proceeds will go to the continuation of youth support programming at CASA. All teams need to be pre-registered by Sept. 14.
To find out more, please contact LeighAnne Eruzione at:
[email protected] 617.763.0241.