Letters to the Editor

We can and should dedicate more resources to treating substance use disorders

Dear Editor:

With a 46 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts from 2012 to 2013, it is wise for Governor Charles Baker to focus the public’s attention on this health crisis and dedicate more state resources to combat substance use disorders, and for the Independent Newspaper Group to call attention to the problem.(More Substance Counselors are needed in our region, February 12, 2015).). The Governor recently announced a 16-member Opioid Addiction Working Group tasked with formulating a statewide strategy to combat addiction. MGH physician Sarah Wakeman, MD, the Medical Director for Substance Use Disorders at the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement, is a member of this working group.

The recent spike in overdose deaths has highlighted the need for urgent action to treat the medical disease of addiction. The communities of Chelsea, Revere and Charlestown identified substance use as the number one priority in MGH’s most recent community health needs assessments. Last fall, Mass General Hospital made improving care for MGH patients with substance use disorders a key priority in its overall strategic plan, building on the 18 years of community prevention and early intervention work of the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement.

 The plan addresses this chronic disease starting with community-based prevention, and then building strong connections and linkages among inpatient, outpatient and community-based services throughout Greater Boston. The goal is to improve access to evidence-based treatment, smooth transitions between care levels and reduce relapse and readmissions. The approach includes a team of addiction specialists for inpatients, improved care in the community at MGH health centers, and community-based recovery coaches – peers in recovery who remove barriers to treatment and serve as navigators.

 MGH supports three community coalitions that are working to prevent substance use for youth, adults and families through education, prevention and intervention strategies. Revere CARES formed in 1997, the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition (CSAC) formed in 2004, and the Chelsea Substance Use Disorder Initiative formed in 2013. The coalitions also work to increase access to and resources for successful treatment and recovery from substance use disorders. Revere CARES worked with the state and the Revere Fire Department to allow Revere firefighters to carry Narcan on their equipment, the first department in the Commonwealth to do so. CSAC helped to establish the Charlestown Drug Court, a specialized court session for individuals on probation with chronic substance abuse who voluntarily participate in court-stipulated drug treatment as an alternative to prison.

 The focus of MGH’s new approach  is to find the right combination of treatment and support that will help patients sustain long-term recovery. We look forward to sharing the results of our Strategic Plan for Substance Use Disorders with the Commonwealth and other health care providers as we work together to address this public health emergency.

 Joan Quinlan, MPA

Vice President

Community Health

Mass General Hospital

Anti-Muslim letters have no place here

Dear Editor:

There are those who say that the despicable signs posted on Shirley Avenue about the Muslim faith last week are a disgrace to the people of Revere. This is absolutely not true. This act was no way representative of the people of our city.

Rather, this hateful act was committed by a very small number, perhaps one, who fail to understand what our country stands for. They don’t know or don’t care what the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution say, and therefore are not familiar with the words “all men are created equal” nor do they accept a basic foundation of our country, that we all have the freedom to practice which religion we choose,

Speaking of religion, those of us who are Christians are familiar with the teaching to “love thy neighbor.” It does not say “love thy neighbor unless your neighbor is Hindu or Buddhist or Jewish or Muslim.” I wonder how many who are reading this have ever been the victims of prejudice? If they have, how could they inflict prejudice on others? When my parents moved to Needham in 1942, one of the neighbors told my father that if he had known that Irish Catholics with seven children were moving in, he would have bought the house to keep us out.

Not long ago the parent of a student in the Revere public schools accused the school of teaching the Muslim religion to his child. He did not wait to speak to school authorities. Instead, he called Boston TV Channel 7 and this lie spread all over the country.

Representing Zarah Magazine, the Voice of the Arab American people here locally, I interviewed Supt. Paul Dakin about that matter. He made it perfectly clear that this was false. He sent letters to the parents explaining that religions were taught only in the context of world history. Dr. Dakin spent hours on the phone answering questions from all over the county about this issue. His response to the absurd charge stopped the problem cold. I also interviewed Mayor Dan Rizzo about the complaint and he fully supported Dr. Dakin’s actions. Both of these interviews were shown on RevereTV channel 8.

From 1965 thru 1967 I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa. President John Kennedy established the Peace Corps in order to help countries that needed help, such as teachers, which is what I was. During those two years the United States was going through the terrible civil rights struggle. Every Liberian saw the news reports about this horrible time in our country’s history. In those two years, I and my three fellow volunteers NEVER had even one problem with our students, other Liberian teachers or any other Liberians. They were friendly, kind and gracious. The point of mentioning this is that we were placed in a totally different environment where we were the outsiders in a strange place. Perhaps that is why I know how newly arrived people feel in our country. Just imagine how they must feel seeing signs that threaten to kill them and insulting their religion – such as we saw here last week.

I would also like to mention that I volunteer as a contributing editor for Zarah Magazine, The Voice of the Arab American people. I am very proud to be doing this. The word zarah is derived from the Arabic word zarah or red rose. It is primarily and universally a symbol of true love, beauty, and peace. The people I have met working as a volunteer are among the nicest people I have ever met. From functions I have attended involving the Arab American community at places such as Salem State University, Harvard, Wesleyan, and Tufts, I have been treated with respect and dignity by the students and professors who are Arab Americans. Yes, I have been embarrassed by this unfortunate incident and although they tell men not to feel that way, I do feel badly. To be treated so well by all the Arab Americans I have met and worked with and then to see signs threatening to kill them.

It hurts a lot.

By the way I am sure there are people assuming I am another lefty liberal. Sorry. I am a John F. Kennedy Democrat, which of course makes me a Ronald Reagan Republican today. I am proud to be a member of the Revere Republican City Committee and also working to get Charlie Baker elected governor. Furthermore, I am unhappy with President Barack Obama for doing nothing to stop ISIS.

ISIS had a great victory right here in Revere however. The racist who put out those signs gave ISIS a great victory. They wanted to see us turning against each other here in America. The truth is that there was no such victory in Revere. The people of Revere were outraged against those signs and were united not separated in condemning those signs.

I would like to close this editorial by quoting President John F. Kennedy’s Commencement Address at American University in Washington on Monday, June 10th, 1963 shortly before he was killed. He had just signed the first nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union, now called Russia. This is what he said.

“In the final analysis our most common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortals.”

When will we all learn to get along?

Bill Jackson

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