Greenfield city councilor looks to chronicle history of opioid epidemic

MARIANNE BULLOCK

MARIANNE BULLOCK

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 10-06-2023 5:21 PM

GREENFIELD — Hoping to fill a gap in the city’s archived history, one city councilor has embarked on a project to create an oral history account of the opioid epidemic in Greenfield.

“There are so many things you wouldn’t even know happened because there are no pieces to archive it,” said Precinct 5 Councilor Marianne Bullock. “The opioid epidemic is one of them.”

As part of an oral history residency program she participated in over the summer, Bullock was tasked with designing her own project. At the same time, she recalled, the city was discussing the opioid settlement funds and how they would be dispersed.

The nationwide opioid settlement, announced in July 2021, set Massachusetts up to receive more than $500 million of the $26 billion settlement, according to the Attorney General’s Office. The agreement, according to then-Attorney General Maura Healey, resolved investigations and litigation over pharmaceutical companies’ roles in fueling the opioid epidemic.

Greenfield will receive $1.7 million over the span of about 15 years, in multiple payments each year. By the end of fiscal year 2024, the city will have received nearly $250,000 from the settlement.

“The opioid funds have a public engagement process,” said Bullock. “That public engagement process could be very technical and budget-focused. … Other [communities] have … had cultural components where they address healing and community cohesion. Let’s not just bring people together, let’s have a component that engages the public in a really meaningful way.”

Bullock said she plans to collect the testimony of up to eight individuals, with a particular focus on people who were parenting during the opioid epidemic.

The city, meanwhile, is working on a related grant proposal that, if funded, would allow the city to engage the community in an oral history project, dialogue, film and book discussion, and other activities on three topics — the opioid crisis, reframing aging and housing/homelessness.

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Bullock said she sees this work as offering a “healing component” to those who participate or listen to the narratives once the project is closer to completion, hopefully by next September. Ideally, her project will be accessible to patrons of the Greenfield Public Library or the Greenfield Historical Society.

“But also,” she said, “[the intent] is to have an archive to reflect the reality of what happened here, and what is happening here.”

Opioid settlement survey

With Bullock’s project underway, the city is also soliciting public input on opioid settlement fund allocations through a survey that went live in late September.

With money from the settlement, the city aims to address disparities in existing opioid services, improve the community’s response to the opioid epidemic and aid people who are disadvantaged by the stigma associated with opioid use disorder.

According to the city, the state regulations outline the following categories for which funding can be allocated: opioid use disorder treatment, support for people in treatment and recovery, Connections to Care, harm reduction, addressing the needs of criminal-justice-involved persons, supporting pregnant or parenting women and their families including babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, preventing misuse of opioids and implementing prevention education.

The survey can be found online at tinyurl.com/OpioidSettlementSurvey and hard copies can be picked up and returned to City Hall, the Greenfield Public Library, the John Zon Community Center, Franklin County Community Justice Support Center, Greenfield Community College, community meal sites and health organizations. Responses will be collected through December.

Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said earlier this week that as many as 75 survey responses have already been submitted online.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.