By John Lynds
In response to the growing opioid epidemic in East Boston, former Senator Anthony Petruccelli founded The East Boston Alliance for Substance use Treatment, Intervention and Education Coalition (EASTIE) aimed at reducing substance abuse among youth and adults in the community.
Now, Rep. Adrian Madaro has picked up where Petruccelli left off before leaving office.
Madaro said EASTIE, a coalition of local government, schools, health care providers, police, youth centers, faith-based organizations, residents and businesses, is going strong and the state rep recently chaired his first meeting alongside, co-chair Joanna Cataldo, of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC).
“This was really born out of former Sen. Petruccelli’s substance abuse task force,” explains Madaro. “The task force wanted to form a new community coalition to prevent and respond to substance use issues within the community.”
While Petruccelli left office before the coalition was fully formed, Madaro said EASTIE is now joined by over 50 active participants representing 12 sectors of the community including that includes schools, churches, non profits, health care providers like EBNHC and North Suffolk Mental Health.
“Last year we named the group EASTIE and crafted a mission statement,” said Madaro.
That statement reads, “EASTIE is a coalition of community agencies and residents that mobilizes youth, families, community members and leaders to prevent and reduce substance use among youth and adults in our community.
Today the group focuses on three areas of work: Treatment / Access to Care, Prevention and Education, and Policy, Environmental and System’s Change.”
“The coalition actively and continually assesses the needs of the community and works to align existing community substance use prevention and treatment efforts.” said Madaro.
To date the coalition has conducted many community wide awareness events and parent and youth workshops at the high school and is currently teaching the LifeSkills curriculum to various youth groups in the area.
At a recent meeting this month, EASTIE members discussed a wide array of topics.
The group announced the LifeSkills curriculum is currently being piloted by the Bureau of Recovery Services of the Boston Public Health Commission and will most likely be at the Excel High School as a pilot program. The program will also be brought to the Donald McKay School’s sixth and seventh grades.
Rachel Cooper of Soccer Without Borders said they have a permanent home now and Eastie and are looking to recruit more high schoolers for the spring season.
EASTIE members will also launch a public service campaign with new posters to promote prescription drug drop off sites at Walgreens and District A-7 Police Station.
The group also discussed volunteer opportunities for Meridian House residents as they head down the path to recovery. Residents at the sober living home and treatment facility have been a vital part of Eastie community events for years and have always lent a helping hand to these events.
The group also asked to spread the word of Thursday, February 2’s Road to Recovery event at 6:30 p.m. at the East Boston Social Centers.
“With an epidemic of opioid overdoses devastating our community, we would like to discuss ways in which help can be received,” said Cataldo. “If we know the “Roadways to Recovery”, we can all lend a hand to end this epidemic. Speakers will represent the recovery community, residential programs, inpatient and outpatient services, sober houses, coalitions, recovery coaches, and policymakers. We can educate ourselves and the public about our programs to help all understand how to get help for Substance Use Disorders.”