When his family was struggling with his son’s addiction, Jim Derrick, says, “I was lost. I didn’t know what to do. Not only do you not have the help, not only do you not have insurance, but you (couldn’t) even talk to your neighbor.” Now, there are resources in Norfolk County, thanks to the SAFE Coalition, a cooperative effort of regular people, state and local officials, social and health care workers, and first responders aimed at community support for people facing addiction and their families. And now, the SAFE Coalition has a home.
On Thursday, February 13th, the SAFE Coalition held a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating its new 2,000 square-foot office and conference space at 206 Dedham St., Suite E., in Norfolk, Mass. The space was made possible thanks to Brian and Robin Hamlin, whose oldest son, Brian Jr., struggled with addiction and passed away in 2014 due to a separate health issue. It was dedicated in his memory as the Brian Hamlin Jr. Recovery Resource Center.
Jen Knight-Levine, whom Derrick introduced as a “force of nature” who spearheaded the effort that created the group and will now work full time as its President, spoke of how far the organization had come from its first meeting, with a current Board of Directors “that are parents, have full-time jobs, are dedicated to other organizations, and every single week take time to talk about … how we can impact members of our community.” SAFE, she said, has been able to train over 500 people to use Narcan, has added five different kinds of support groups, implemented a drug disposal program, provided grief counseling that will travel to families’ homes and a child life specialist, help families in filing Section 35 orders at Wrentham district court, and more. She commended Rep. Jeff Roy, the lawmaker to whom she had originally reached out, and without whose support, she said, “We wouldn’t be here.”
“We didn’t talk about the disease of addiction. We talked about drug arrests and punishments,” said Roy, who admitted a leap of faith “as a State Rep., to talk about addiction and heroin in your community.” The issue hit Franklin hard in May of 2015 with five funerals due to drug overdose, and Roy joined Franklin officials in prioritizing the issue. “We had to talk about it out loud,” said Roy, who said DA Morrissey advised him and Knight to create a coalition. At the first meeting to gauge community interest, “My heart opened when we saw 350 people show up at Franklin High School,” said Roy, who feels that being part of the SAFE Coalition is one of the greatest things he’s ever done. “Most importantly, lives are being saved,” he said.
Derrick and Knight-Levine presented Roy with an award in his name, the SAFE Coalition’s Jeffrey N. Roy Award, to be given to members of the community as long as the coalition exists.
DA Morrissey then spoke to the group, lauding its efforts, particularly in the Narcan training, and acknowledging that law enforcement “can’t arrest our way out of this problem.” He was followed by remarks by the town of Norfolk’s school resource officer Michelle Palladini, who will be running a mindfulness group for teens at the new location.
SAFE Board member Mary Graham-Louise, RN says the Board is grateful for the donated space.
“We were just so ready,” says Graham-Louise. “We all got tired of meeting in coffee shops and discussing really sensitive topics out in the open, or trying to figure out which home to go to.”
The new location, she says, will give the SAFE Coalition the opportunity to host its programs, which include
a Support Line connection to a SAFE Board Officers who can help navigate recovery and resources
a Child Life Specialist two days per month to help families and loved ones with grief counseling as a result of overdose. Access to a Chaplain is also part of this service.
Unconditional Love on Saturdays from 10-11:30 a.m., for family members of loved ones with substance use issues.
Adolescent Vaping Cessation Programs starting the first week of March, on Thursdays and Fridays with an open referral, from 9-3 p.m. with parents encouraged to attend on Thursdays, from 4-5 p.m., to outline session expectations.
Employee/Benefit Programming that will help anyone to review their benefits and receive assistance in navigating details.
A permanent Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit
Teen Mindfulness, a teen program the 1st Tuesday of every month, that will be run by Michelle Palladini, Board Member and School Resource Officer in Norfolk. In addition, Michelle will also host a Mindfulness Program for Friends and Family Members on the last Monday of each month.
Narcan Training, every Wednesday, at noon for anyone interested. It runs approximately one hour, and Narcan is distributed to those who complete the training.
Volunteer Training, the last Tuesday of every month, from 9-12 p.m., required of Coalition volunteers.
Community Forums, on the 1st Tuesday of every month from 7-8 p.m.
The new office will also be the location of the Grandparent support group and the Peer-to-Peer group, and this month, the Coalition is planning a doctor’s roundtable discussion on safe prescribing practices.
The Coalition will continue to host Road to Recovery, a group for families of those in the throes of substance abuse, at Milford Regional Hospital on Wednesdays, from 7-8 p.m., and it has recently partnered with non-profit organization Wayside, through a Department of Justice grant, to support direct support to children under 18 affected by the opioid epidemic, and their caregivers.
To keep abreast of new programs, visit www.safecoalitionma.org.