THIS BLOG POST was WRITTEN BY WILLIAM MANZI, TOWN MANAGER OF SEABROOK, NH
James Wahlberg speaking to the town of Seabrook, NH
Name after name, picture after picture, town after town, the ending of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation documentary, “If Only,” portrayed the devastating and deadly effects of opioid addiction at its screening at the Seabrook Community Center on May 24. The showing in this small town comes after more than 400 people died of heroin overdoses in New Hampshire last year; including 12 people who died of either suspected or confirmed overdoses in Seabrook alone.
To help raise awareness about addiction and prescription drug misuse to teens and adults, Seabrook hosted approximately 300 people, including producer and special guest, James Wahlberg, and discussed the safety measures needed to avoid becoming addicted to prescription drugs including safe use, storage, and disposal of to keep them out of the hands of kids. A panel discussion after the movie featured Phil Lahey of the Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Program, Marty Boldin Recovery Representative to the Governor’s Commission for Alcohol & Drug Prevention, Jeff Hatch Director of Green Mountain Recovery, John Burns from Families Hoping and Coping, Jeff Brown from the NH Parole Board, James Vara the NH Drug Czar, Kerry Norton of Hope on Haven Hill Recovery, and parents who lost children to the epidemic, Chucky Rosa, Dorothy White, and Doug Griffin, and provided even greater resources to the town.
Outreach to the Community
In order to get the outreach the Town had hoped for we utilized traditional methods to publicize and highlight the event, including social media, local cable access, and coverage through the two local media outlets. Having a Wahlberg come is obviously something that can help attract attention, but the goals of the event were and are beyond promoting a single event. In increasing awareness of the problem, and the resources available to combat the program, we hope to use the event as a building block in that fight.
Our effort in Seabrook was driven through our Emergency Management Department, which has been assigned a limited portfolio in the public health area (Seabrook does not have a Public Health Director). Within the scope of that health portfolio the Director and his one part time staffer, Maria Brown, working with both Police and Fire, came forward with the idea for this program. We had previously sponsored an educational event on NARCAN at the public Library through this same program. From a management perspective our goal was to not only provide initiative and program support to get this event off the ground, but to achieve buy-in and participation from our public safety departments so as to minimize any organizational issues. That required some inter-departmental meetings and planning. The results were exceptional, with attendance and support from the regional DEA Office, including the attendance of the Special Agent in charge, the attendance of the Colonel of the New Hampshire State Police Robert Quinn, the attendance U.S. Marshall for New Hampshire, David Cargill, and the Seabrook Police Chief and Fire Chief, as well as the Director of Emergency Management.
Our problems in Seabrook with opioids and heroin are reflective of the scourge impacting the multi-state region. Our goal in promoting this film is to leverage the initial awareness into more substantial action. The post film panel discussion centered on bringing additional resources (governmental and non-governmental) to bear on the problem, with the panel talking about how residents with a need can access those resources. Those resources are not limited to addiction recovery, but include family support and education, which is vital in the all hands on deck fight against this insidious monster of addiction. With governmental funding for addiction programming essentially flat the role and importance of non-profits has been heightened, as they provide education, addiction recovery programs, and family support for those in need. In Seabrook we have several non-profits that participated in this program, and along with the active participation of our faith based community we have started to create a support network for families, and for those addicted. Success cannot be achieved in a vacuum, and will take time and full community buy-in. This program was and is part of an ongoing community effort to provide those in need with information and support.