At the April 12th meeting at Rockland City Council Chambers, a large group of stakeholders met to organize and to make plans to address the opiate addiction crisis in Knox County. It was noted that 29 percent of all babies born in Knox County were drug affected in 2014; that county trends for drug-related deaths (at least one per month) continue to mirror the 31-percent statewide increase in rate from 2014 to 2015; and that the rates of opiate-related problems will double every three years unless meaningful actions are taken. 

This column outlines the results of this meeting: 

• More than 150 people have expressed interest in this coalition and will be invited to participate on a Steering Committee to coordinate the activity of five workgroups: Addiction Prevention and Education; Addiction Treatment and Recovery; Law Enforcement and Alternatives; Funding and Support for Treatment/Living Needs of People/Families with Addiction; and Coping by Families and Friends of those with Addictions. 

The steering committee and workgroups are open to any and all community stakeholders including, but not limited to, individuals with opiate addiction /family members/ friends; treating practitioners/therapists; community service providers; law enforcement/restorative justice professionals; recovery community/mentors/coaches; government representatives; and interested community organizations and individuals.

• The coalition will embark upon a fundraising campaign to support coalition activities and provide assistance to people with opiate addiction and their families as needed to support their recovery. This is in the early stage of planning.

Given that nearly one out of every three babies in Knox County are born affected by opiate exposure throughout pregnancy, the coalition will focus immediately upon this issue. It will strive to implement proven approaches to preventing addiction in young women and introduce programs to break the cycle of addiction in our community by supporting mothers and their families in a healthy and constructive way.

• An equally high priority involves recruiting more doctors to offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which should be an option open to all those with opiate addiction who seek that treatment option. There are many hundreds of people with substance use disorder in Knox County who cannot access MAT so remain at risk of continued drug use, overdose, death, disability and involvement in drug crimes.

• Since people who are struggling with addiction find it impossible to begin recovery when dealing with daily personal crises, a workgroup will explore how to provide life necessities, such as housing, transportation and access to medical care. The focus will be on providing the foundation needed to help them become self-sufficient as soon as possible. 

• In recognition that incarceration without treatment makes recovery from addiction more difficult, and is therefore counterproductive, another workgroup will promote well-proven alternatives to current jail and prison practices.

Please send inquiries regarding the Knox Recovery Coalition to Knox.Recovery.Network@gmail.com (or call or text 370-9881), and please indicate your level of interest in being involved and/or informed.