City steps up intervention and prevention efforts in neighborhood

He was home, recovering from knee surgery when the news came that one of his aids, a local wonder boy known for getting the job done here in East Boston for the mayor, was busted for drugs.

Mayor Thomas Menino wept.

It’s been over a month since John Forbes was arrested by federal authorities on drug dealing charges in the neighborhood, but behind the sensational headlines that followed his arrest was simply a story of a husband, son, and friend that got hooked on the dangerous and highly addictive prescription drug, Oxycontin.

This is why Menino announced a wide-ranging and comprehensive plan to increase awareness about substance abuse and the programs available to help residents in need and their families here in East Boston.

The strategic plan includes a targeted outreach campaign, a substance abuse summit in East Boston and a host of educational programs to not only address the issue immediately but to ensure that prevention efforts are carried out well into the future. Agencies involved in the plan include the Boston Public Schools, Boston Centers for Youth and Families, the Elderly Commission, the Boston Public Health Commission and the Boston Police Department.

“Drug abuse can effect anyone and any family, so we have to come together as a community and confront this issue head-on by raising awareness and providing substance abuse programs and counseling resources to affected families,” said Menino. “I am confident that this extensive plan will not only address the issue of substance abuse and help abuse victims immediately, but will also set forth a large scale prevention effort.”

The Mayor’s plan features three strategies to improve the access and utilization of substance abuse services including a broad-based outreach and education campaign, starting with a door-knocking campaign in East Boston on Saturday, January 30. Educational programs targeted to specific populations will be conducted through the Boston Public Schools, the Boston Centers for Youth and Families and the Elderly Commission and a longer term capacity building effort, focused on supporting and coordinating the existing substance abuse services and prevention work in East Boston.

The new programs will kickoff with the Saturday event where volunteers will join city officials for a door-knocking campaign to disseminate neighborhood-specific resource guides and other informational materials. The campaign will also provide the chance for residents to air their concerns so that workers can provide them with the proper services – residents will be able to fill out a short survey addressing their needs as well. The campaign will culminate in a Neighborhood Substance Abuse Summit on Saturday, February 13 when findings from the door-knocking effort will be reported. At the summit, a series of speakers will review both prevention and intervention methods and members of the recovery community will share their personal stories.

“I want to thank Mayor Menino for his great leadership on such a troubling issue and will lend my support in whatever way possible to this aggressive initiative to tackle substance abuse,” said Councilor Sal LaMattina. “This new program will raise awareness to the devastating impact that substance abuse can have on our families and community and inform those who need help of the tremendous resources around them.”

Information regarding educational programs and support services will be distributed through the Boston Public Schools (BPS), the Boston Center for Youth and Families (BCYF) and the Elderly Commission and will be targeted to each organization’s specific member population.

The BCYF will distribute educational flyers and posters at neighborhood community centers and will use an existing $5,000 grant to provide workshops for teens with substance abuse issues at the Harborside Community Center and the Meridian House, a local treatment facility.

“Substance abuse has been a top priority of mine since I took office, and I am glad Mayor Menino is combating this problem head on in East Boston,” said Representative Carlo Basile. “The East Boston community must come together to provide assistance to those in need and to prevent others from being afflicted. Substance abuse is a disease and like a disease we must do everything we can to prevent and treat it.”

BPS officials will coordinate outreach and education efforts with the Boston Police Department (BPD) at East Boston High, Excel Academy, the Donald McKay School and the Umana Middle School. These efforts will include hosting overnight events for teens that provide opportunities to safely explore and discuss substance abuse, attracting Alateen or a similar organization to provide services in East Boston, distributing educational flyers and posters around the schools, and guest speakers during advisory periods and school assemblies.

The Elderly Commission will also sponsor a series of workshops helping grandparents learn how to comfortably talk to their own kids about drug and alcohol use. The workshops will also teach seniors who they can trust for help and what the side effects are of certain illegal drugs to identify those who may be abusing substances.

These workshops will also help seniors understand whom they can trust, what illegal drugs are available and what their side effects might be.

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) will continue to support existing local organizations that focus on substance abuse issues by encouraging great collaboration.

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