America is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic. The CDC reports that over 450,000 Americans have been killed by opioids since 2000, and more than 130 people a day die from opioid-related drug overdoses. Prevention and access to treatment for opioid addiction and overdose reversal drugs are critical to fighting this epidemic.
These podcasts are focused on the frontline heroes who work every day providing interventions to help those who are suffering as a result of the opioid epidemic.
The woman who helps everyone everyday
Mary Wheeler is the Program Director of Healthy Streets Outreach in Lynn, MA where they focus on services for both injection drug users and sex workers. They are part of MA Department of Public Health's Naloxone Pilot Site and they also provide Syringe Service Programs.
Mary was a pioneer in helping those struggling with opioids. She was among a small group of concerned caregives who handed out naloxone to those suffering long before it became common practice. In addition to running Healthy Streets, Mary often goes to homes and conducts “door knocks” after an overdose to follow up with families who may need help. If you know someone who needs help with substance use disorder Mary will always be there to help
The revolutionary who changed law enforcement
Leonard Campanello is a former police chief of Gloucester and co-founder of PAARI, the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative. The administration of President Barack Obama recognized Leonard Campanello at the White House for his revolutionary ANGEL Initiative that works to combat drug addiction.
Under this initiative, the Gloucester Police Department would not charge any person afflicted with the disease of addiction if the person presented themselves to the police department, with or without any drugs, and asked for help to get into treatment.
The police promised to help every individual who came into the station, regardless of their city of residence and their insurance status. In addition, each person looking for help would be assigned an “Angel” who would sit with the person through the intake process until they are referred into an acute or long-term treatment facility.
The parent who stood up and fights for justice
Three years into her son’s opioid addiction, Joanne Peterson decided to let the world know about it. Learn To Cope (LTC) is the result, a nonprofit that has helped thousands of parents and family members deal with loved ones who are addicted to opiates and other drugs.
Now funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, LTC has chapters in 12 of 14 counties in Massachusetts, two in Florida and one in Idaho; 17 staff members; and a 24/7 private online discussion board used by 10,000 people.
According to its website, www.learn2cope.org, approximately 600 families per week attend meetings run by trained facilitators who have walked in their shoes. Meetings “offer peer-support, education, resources and HOPE for families with addiction and recovery. They are a safe place for members to share their experiences, ask questions, learn about addiction and listen to guest speakers.”
By distributing Narcan, to date, Learn to Cope has been responsible for reversing 130 opioid overdoses.
The social activist who is there when you need her
Mackenzie Diezeck is a Jail Diversion Clinician serving nine communities in Massachusetts. In her roles Mackenzie works in partnership with police officers in each community to provide resources, support and assistance to those struggling with substance use and mental health. When police are called to incidents involving substance use and/or mental health, Mackenzei will also respond. As the JDP clinician, Mackenzie will also follow up with people after those incidents to connect those individuals with resources and programming.
The police chief that every community needs
Bob Bongiorno is the Police Chief of the Bedford Police Department in Bedford, MA. Bob has become a leader in the law enforcement movement that recognizes those suffering with opioid use disorder as a medical problem and not a legal one. Bob helped established the Central Middlesex Police Chief Association a group of 9 communities that has implemented innovative programs to help individuals and families who are struggling with opioid use disorder.
Providing hope to those with substance use disorder/ educating the community
Dr. Allison Burns, PharmD, is the President and CEO of Hope House in Boston, Massachusetts where the mission is to provide individualized treatment to those living with a substance use disorder (SUD). Individuals who enter Hope House receive education and support allowing them to pursue their life interests with families, employers, and be self-sufficient members of their communities. In addition Hope House strives to provide current information on the disease of addiction to families and the community at large.