Overdose resources, awareness brought to Memorial Stadium

Aug 31, 2023

A day of mourning, remembrance and most of all, awareness, came to Dartmouth Memorial Stadium Aug. 30 at an event observing Overdose Awareness Day.

The evening’s program was organized by the Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force, Fairhaven Opioid Task Force and Dartmouth Advocates for Addiction, Recovery and Treatment. 

Member organizations of the task force and other local addiction outreach groups set up stands around the stadium to share their mission or resources for getting treatment. 

The day’s speakers and resource tables mostly emphasized a harm-reduction approach to overdose prevention. Harm reduction emphasizes engaging directly with people who use drugs and attempting to lessen the negative impacts of their drug use, rather than a punitive approach that threatens criminal and social consequences. To that end, multiple booths handed out overdose reversal drug Narcan, also called Naloxene, along with a training booklet on how to administer the drug. 

“For years, there’s been a variety of ways that we have attacked the problem … and it was acceptable by everybody to everybody,” said David Lima, Executive Minister at Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford.  “We’ve come to recognize and understand that that doesn’t solve the problem.”

A powerful, emotional moment in the evening came during a speech by Tuesday Desrochers, who lost two sons, just five years apart, to overdoses. Desrochers began with a poem describing her loss and mourning process, before explaining why she speaks aloud about her pain. 

“I fight for moms like me, who bury their children way before their time. My boys wanted nothing more than to live a normal life, free of drugs,” Desrochers said. “They fought like hell to the end and I fight for them now.”

Several local police departments attended, and shared information about changing approaches to policing drugs and overdoses. Two sergeants from Fairhaven Police Department, Mike Bouvier and Kevin Swain, are members of Fairhaven Community Outreach, which works to engage with citizens about overdose and addiction. 

“The punitive approach certainly isn’t going to help someone recover,” Swain said. “It’s kind of a different outlook on policing.”

“We have people that reach out directly to us now, and we’re building a different relationship with them,” Bouvier said.

Fairhaven Community Outreach and other organizations like it work under a federal grant called Implementing Overdose Response Strategies at the Local Level. 

While towns typically each host their own events for overdose awareness day, Wednesday’s program invited all of the cities and towns in the Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force to Dartmouth, to “honor the collaborative process” said Gioia Persuitte, a program coordinator with the city of New Bedford who helped organize the event. 

“We want to have more of a county-wide impact, and work together, because we do better together, we go further together,” Persuitte said. 

The Massachusetts Overdose Prevention helpline, formerly called Never Use Alone, can be reached at 800-972-0590.