Our Opinion: It's time to get fed up
The community gathering last Friday at Factory Point Town Green was an important step in Manchester and its neighboring Northshire communities coming together to shine a light on the human cost of opiate addiction, and resolve to keep more of our loved ones from losing their lives to opiate painkillers and heroin.
That human cost is staggering. It's taken away far too many of our friends, neighbors and loved ones, far too soon.
Addiction is not merely a tough opponent. It's a pernicious monster that will take everything from you, smile reassuringly while telling you blatant lies, and convince you how much it cares about you while it kicks you in the teeth. It does not care what your last name is, where you live, what school you went to or what you do for a living.
There are a lot of people in our state and our region dedicated to addressing this crisis, in prevention and education, law enforcement, emergency medicine, social services, treatment and counseling. They're doing their best and they deserve our respect and support.
But this is a stubborn, multifaceted problem that's not going away on its own.
And it's not an "other folks in other towns" problem. This is here, now.
There's a stigma that comes with addiction, and that's proven to be a difficult obstacle to overcome, even in a state that has been dealing with the opiate crisis in a high-profile way for years. The fear of judgement keeps people from speaking up and seeking help, and we know from past experience that guilt, shame and silence do not make problems go away. They're nearly as toxic as the drugs themselves.
To that end, we applaud those in our community who stood up at Friday's rally to tell their stories of how opiate addiction has affected their lives. That first-person testimony is more powerful than any public service announcement. Its authenticity rings true, but it also lets others who are dealing with addiction in our area know that they're not alone, that help is out there, and that they don't need to be afraid or ashamed.
That doesn't mean people should not take personal responsibility for their health in the first place. That's where education and prevention are crucial, and the work being done by agencies such as The Collaborative to promote healthy choices by youth and young adults is crucial to this effort.
But this isn't the kind of fight that we can sit out and leave to a few experts. It will take our full community working together — parents, teachers, doctors, police, counselors, pastors, all of us.
"My feeling is, instead of everyone staying in their own lane, that prevention, treatment and recovery have to work together," Kenneth Sigsbury, the executive director of Bennington-based Turning Point Center, said at Friday's rally. "I don't think we can fix it, but I know we can make it a lot better."
The alternative is more of the same. And if the folks who gathered at the Town Green made one thing clear, it's that more of the same is simply unacceptable.
Too many lives are being lost and too much human potential is being wasted by this epidemic. Too many families are being hurt by loved ones who lose themselves in the fog of addiction, leading them to places their true selves would never go.
Fed up? Indeed, we are.
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