LEOMINSTER, Mass. — The road to recovery is one that’s neither short nor easy, but Leominster Opioid Task Force co-founder Tara Rivera is living proof that it’s a road worth taking.
Having been in long-term recovery for the last 21 years, she first experienced the ordeals many people are currently suffering through before the term “opioid epidemic” had entered the public consciousness.
“I’ve been losing friends since high school. It’s definitely not something that’s new, it’s just something that’s gotten worse,” she said. “It’s something that I feel passionate about because I’ve been through it.”
Her own experiences, coupled with the epidemic she currently sees in local communities, is what led Rivera to partner with local mental health clinician Jaci Cavaioli to form the Leominster Opioid Task Force last August.
As Cavaioli explained, the hope is for the task force to serve as the connective tissue between city departments, local treatment resources, and other organizations touched by the opioid epidemic in Leominster.
Other area communities like Fitchburg and Gardner already have task forces of their own, but, as Rivera and Cavaioli explained, there hadn’t been anything similar operating in Leominster.
“There’s no city that’s unaffected in this epidemic, and it doesn’t discriminate. This touches everybody in Leominster. The city often works in these silos, which is why we wanted to bring everyone to the table to talk about this,” Cavaioli said. “We want to figure out how we can come together and work together.”
Rivera, who works as a treatment advocate for Recovery Centers of America in Westminster, said the lack of communication between people on the front lines of treating opioid abuse is an issue she frequently encounters.
“With both of us working to help people access treatment, we’re finding that one organization wasn’t talking to a different one, or that one might not be communicating with another one, and we want to fill those gaps,” she said.
Cavaioli added: “Someone could be doing the same thing as someone else, but without even knowing it. Why not work together to make what we’re doing even better?”
Rivera and Cavaioli plan to hold regular meetings with representatives of city departments like police, fire, and health, as well as school officials, representatives of HealthAlliance Hospital, and agencies like LUK and Community Health Connections. They’ve already held several meetings with some community members, but hope to start holding them on a monthly basis. They’re also looking for more volunteers.
Since August, they’ve held several events centered around community education and reducing stigma associated with addiction. …
Apart from meetings and event, Rivera and Cavaioli also hope the task force could serve as a network that people seeking recovery resources could reach out to for help.
“It’s been a very eye-opening and humbling experience since we started, and I think that there is a lot of positive momentum,” Cavaioli said. “There’s a lot to be done everywhere, but I think there’s been a lot of success.”
Information from: Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg, Mass.), http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com