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Letter: Seeing the shadow world in the light

Applause and thank you to The Recorder for the willingness to commit the time and space for the recent series on addiction. Chris Curtis did a superb job reporting with compelling stories, comprehensive lists of services, efforts now underway and sensitivity to this issue. Bravo.

The shadow world of this illness, heroin addiction in particular, belongs in the light of day! As a counselor who spent 18 years in the high schools of Franklin County and the North Quabbin, I am well aware of the frightening trajectory this crises has taken! (It is worth noting that MOST of our young people are NOT using heroin, which is a strength of our communities.) For those who are caught in this nightmare and terror, we (as a “village”) have a moral obligation to demand treatment and ongoing support services that to date have been severely limited, underfunded, and next to impossible to access. Not acceptable for what is clearly a growing public health emergency.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the tremendous courage it took for Karen Sims Sayword and Paula Sayword to publicly acknowledge the truth about their granddaughter Ashley’s tragic death due to a heroin overdose. In the midst of their own shock and unspeakable grief, they chose the moment to be honest and to wake up the community. They shed an early light in the darkest of corners in order that Ashley’s death be used for good purpose. Likewise, to those who shared their personal stories about their own struggles and recovery challenges, thank you. We do not shame or shun you. You are brave!

As the examples of Take Back the Night, Relay for Life, etc., have shown us: we can and we must reclaim the hope that working together will bring us more understanding and compassion for those who suffer.


(retired health educator and counselor)


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