By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Selectboard heard from Board of Health officials on Monday, 4/10, about a partnership with Seven Hills Treatment Center and the possible creation of a task force in Fairhaven to address the substance abuse epidemic.
Fairhaven Health Agent Patricia Fowle told the board that the Board of Health met with fire and police officials, including police officers and paramedics who have been on the front lines of dealing with the fallout from opiate and other substance abuse. She said the meeting showed that the town has its share of overdoses and residents with opiate addictions and other substance abuse problems.
It was, she said, “an eye-opener.”
First responders have already been forced to deal with the crisis, she said, whether or not the town has a policy or programs in place.
Some municipalities have task forces already, and there is a regional one north of the area, but nothing local. She said Fairhaven is a “little bit behind.”
Ms. Fowle is working with other health agents in the area to come up with a strategy and learn from each other’s experiences.
She told the board that one thing that became clear at the meeting with first responders is that families are overwhelmed and do not know what to do.
The partnership with Seven Hills is a syringe collection program. The idea is for trained counselors to be the ones who collect the syringes and hopefully be able to start a conversation with people who may be using them, or with people in the neighborhood.
It is a “low key” way to get started, she said.
“There are many things that can be offered in Fairhaven,” to help combat substance abuse, said Ms. Fowle.
She pointed to Fairhaven’s experience collaborating with other towns on tobacco control, saying it was a “great success.”
“This needs to be done,” said Ms. Fowle. “The need is there.”
She told the board that the task force is the first step, and she hoped that Seven Hills would work with emergency personnel.
“As far as I’m concerned, we can’t talk about this enough,” said Selectboard member Dan Freitas, adding that he tries to talk to his daughters all the time about drugs.
He said he has attended presentations that give parents tips on how to spot the signs of abuse in teens, including something as mundane as counting spoons, which is how cocaine and heroin are cooked.
“Whatever you guys need,” he said.
Ms. Fowle noted that syringes no longer require a prescription and are inexpensive. She said Fairhaven has a “very active” syringe collection program. Anyone can take used syringes to the fire department and they will be taken, no questions asked. The program has doubled the number of syringes that it receives.
Despite that, they are still found on the streets, so the Seven Hills program may help find people who are not coming forward.
“It’s your friends, it’s your neighbors,” said Board of Health member Peter DeTerra.
Town Administrator Mark Rees noted that Seven Hills is a full service agency, that does more than the syringe program.
As a public health issue the matter falls under the purview of the Board of Health, but the BOH asked for support and participation from the Selectboard and other town departments.
“We each know someone by name,” said Ms. Fowle.
“It touches everyone in this room,” said Mr. DeTerra.
In a matter that was not on the agenda, the board allowed Al Benac to speak about the conditions at Cooke Park, which is at the corner of Pilgrim Avenue and Cherry Street in North Fairhaven. It is the home of the Joshua Slocum monument and the reputed, yet disputed, burial ground of John Cooke, of Mayflower fame.
Mr. Benac told the board that he believes some of the recent changes to the park have not improved it, but have made things worse.
He wants the bench that was dedicated to Dr. Hinohara by the Manjiro Society to be moved, and said that the rhododendron trees are bound to completely cover the two stone markers, making the reason for the park unnoticeable to the public.
Since he was not on the agenda, the board allowed him to speak, but did not discuss the issue.
Selectboard chairperson Bob Espindola did, however, note that the changes went through the Historical Commission and the Beautification Committee. He said the proper channels would have to be followed to make any changes. Public parks fall under the jurisdiction of the Board of Public Works.
Mr. Benac will probably be on a future meeting agenda to discuss the issue in more detail.
To learn more about Cooke Memorial Park (including information on the disputed remains of John Cooke), Joshua Slocum and Manjiro, visit http://fairhaventours.com/ places-to-visit/
As is customary in the first meeting after the annual election, the Selectboard reorganized the board, making Bob Espindola the chairperson for the next year. The board generally rotates the chair position, with the most senior board member taking the gavel.
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