I was sat in my second floor home office last week, when I heard the all too familiar sounds of sirens approaching. The ambulance drove past my house and stopped a few doors down. I looked up from my desk and to be honest, thought little of it. Then came another ambulance, two police cruisers, the ambulance chief and a fire engine and I knew this was a bigger event than I had first given it credit for.
Like many of my neighbors I walked down the stairs and took a peek, in part to make sure that the house was not on fire and because deep down we all want to know what’s going on. Several of my neighbors had gathered on the street corner and I joined them, and we all watched as emergency crews got to work.
Many of us guessed that this was an overdose, partly because we know the house and because one neighbor grew up knowing the homes occupants and that one was a recovering addict. Several minutes later the neighbor came out on the stretcher and I’m glad to say was alert. We summized that this was probably a result of Narcan having being administered and we all stood and talked as the scene cleared.
As we talked, I discovered that one of my neighbors son, who had himself overdosed on heroin in early December and the exact scene we had just witnessed had played out over there, had been hospitalized a few night before. His Mother had found him slumped over the kitchen table, coughing up blood, and unable to breath. Turns out her son had snorted Fentanyl, even though he had been clean for about 4 months. She had rushed him to the hospital, by the time they had gotten there he was unresponsive and it was touch and go for a few hours. He was back home now as the hospitals basically patch up addicts and release them, as they can do no more.
By this time we had been joined by another neighbor from the block who upon hearing what we were talking about, let us know that he too was taking care of his daughter and son-in-law both of whom were recovering heroin addicts. His grandchild was now his charge. Never in a million years would I have guessed this was the case had he not told us. This is just a guy who walks down the street each day with his dog, minding his own business. He could be anyone and everyone in Somersworth. Similarly my other neighbors are a hard working family, with what many would consider good ethics and are simply trying to make it work.
I live in what some would consider a good part of Somersworth, and within the space of one hour I had heard these three stories. Yet, people still tell me there is no heroin problem here or in Strafford county as a whole. I still read in the paper that this is someone else’s problem, or it simply doesn’t exist. These are average people with average families, doing the best they can to work their way through a daunting problem that is often not of their own making. The reason most of these stories are not told is because of the shame these families feel. There is still a huge stigma attached to heroin use, and I would likely not have heard any of these stories but for this one incident, which makes me wonder; how often is this scene played out behind closed doors each day in this community? How many parents are battling this, isolated and alone, scared to speak out because of the shame?
I’ve sat with the Mayors drugs task force and listened to guest speaker after guest speaker tell us how there are not enough beds available, how easy it is obtain heroin here and in other parts of the state, and last week I saw it in my own neighborhood. When are we finally going to say enough is enough and sit up as a whole community and listen to the stories? How many more children do parents have to lose, before we say enough is enough? When will we give these parents a voice, one without the stigma and shame attached?
You, yes, you, can make a start by attending the public forum on drug usage in Somersworth which takes place this Thursday at 6 p.m. in council Chambers. If you can’t make it in person I implore you to at least tune into channel 22 and get informed. I’ll be there and asking questions, but will you?