Forbes Library in Northampton holds film screening and forum on efforts to fight the opioid crisis

Forbes Library in Northampton holds film screening and forum on efforts to fight the opioid crisis

By Will Mallas

On Wednesday night, Forbes Library in Northampton hosted a screening of the documentary “Heroin(e)” as part of an initiative to fight the opiate epidemic in and around Northampton.

The documentary followed three women in Huntington, West Virginia: Jan Rader, a fire chief, Patricia Keller, a drug court judge, and Necia Freeman, a street minister. These women work to prevent opioid overdoses and help alleviate opioid addictions. According to the film, Huntington is considered the overdose capital of America, with five to seven overdoses recorded on a daily basis. Huntington serves as a representation of a large number of addictions to prescribed opioids that can lead ultimately to heroin use.

Following the completion of the documentary, a public forum was held that began with individual statements from local addiction treatment professionals about their own individual roles in helping treat those suffering from addictions. Other topics discussed were goals in trying to limit addiction and the importance of focusing on the patients themselves when trying to curb substance abuse.

“Our goal is just to provide a safe space to support people in recovery,” said Lynn Ferro, interim director of the Northampton Recovery Center. “I think people forget prevention is crucial and treatment is totally crucial, harm reduction is crucial, and yet, if you don’t support someone once they finished treatment, you’re just perpetuating the whole cyclical system again.”

The professionals also emphasized their primary goal is to keep those who overdose on opioids alive rather than simply to fight addiction.

“We’re interested in keeping people alive whether or not they decide to seek treatment,” Albie Park, cofounder of the non-profit Harm Reduction Headshots 413, said. “If they don’t, we just don’t want you to die, we just don’t want you to do things that are unhealthy for you.”

The forum also featured input from those who have suffered from addiction and who are at various stages of recovery and sobriety.

Rene Anderson, a resident of Northampton who has been sober for 31 years, emphasized the importance of strong relationships in helping addicts fight their addictions.

“One of the things I want to say is that we heal in relationship,” Anderson said.  “Our responsibility as citizens and community members is to be available,”

Toward the end of the forum, when asked about the impact the “War on Drugs” had on the current opioid crisis, Park claimed that previous policy has had a negative impact on drug use.

“The War on Drugs is one of the scourges of the 21st century,” Park said. “The approach of this country toward the drug problem makes it worse.”

The event was sponsored by the “Northampton Committee to Stop the Wars” and hosted by Carolyn Oppenheim and Francis Crowe as part of the Resistance Film Series  to promote local activism on a variety of issues.

“We believe in activism for social change and so we try to show films that raise issues… about activism for social change,” Oppenheim said.

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected]