The Town of Scituate is among many area towns taking a proactive approach. On Thursday, a delegation hosted United States Senator Ed Markey Thursday to discuss issues in town, and how they are aided by state and federal funding.
The first stop on the trip was to Oceanside Drive, for a walk along the Atlantic Coast seawall that is funded through grants.
According to officials, the town has spent $15 million in project work in the past five years, including $2.5 million on the seawall.
“Right now we have a triple threat. We have rising sea levels, we have more frequent storms, and we have old, crumbling infrastructure,” said State Representative Jim Cantwell (Marshfield, Scituate). “People want to debate what’s causing rising sea levels, I don’t care, my thing is we have to fund and make sure we address the issues that put both people at risk for harm, and their property.”
Between setting minimum high restrictions in flood zones and working on coastal resiliency, officials in Scituate say they are among local leaders.
Also funded through federal grants? The Drug Free Communities Support Program. The Town of Scituate is one of many grantees.
Drug Free Communities provides funds for local groups to help combat addiction.
At the new public safety complex, members of the community spoke with Markey about the importance of having such programs in town.
“I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for [the police department], if it wasn’t for the treatment that I got, if it wasn’t for coming back and jumping into a community of recovering people just like I am,” said Katie Sheerin of South Shore Peer Recovery.
The consensus in the room was that treatment is among many things key to combating the crisis.
“We need more money for treatment, more than any other issue,” said Markey. “Massachusetts is as hard hit as any state in the United States. We are, in the fentanyl area, one of the top two states, along with New Hampshire. We need to give people the treatment help which they need. If we do so, it will help dramatically to reduce the number of fatalities.”
Ann Marie Galvin, the Coordinator of Scituate FACTS, said that the town was awarded a grant in 2013 to address substance abuse.
She said there have been 22 overdoses in Scituate in 10 years. None this year.
As part of their framework, Galvin says they focus on not only prevention, but include aspects of intervention, treatment, and recovery.
To maintain a successful program, she said it takes a village.
“I think the magic to this model is getting everybody at the table. It’s not a town problem or a school parent problem – but rather our own shared responsibility.”
In six years since they started tracking data, she said high school drinking was down 18%, binge drinking was down 21%, and marijuana use was down 20%.
In addition to follow-up visits after an incident, the town offers outreach and support services to those in need.
“Thank you for everything that you’re doing on this issue. Thank you for being a model community for the country,” Markey said in his closing remarks. “You’re showing what can happen when a community comes together and says they’re going to solve a problem.”