Veterans Park, in Griswold, was the epicenter of an annual celebration of recovery, on Sept. 7.
This is the third year that organizers with Matt’s Mission, a nonprofit whose mission is to end the stigma of drug addiction, sponsored the event.
Huge posters with the faces of those who had died from opioids surrounded the gazebo at Veterans Park. They ringed the amphitheater and the crowd of approximately 100 people who came out for the event. Twelve people shared their stories about how opioids had changed their lives. Some were in recovery, some were parents of adult children who died from overdoses.
President and Founder Kathleen Dufficy said it was necessary to change the way those with substance abuse issues are treated. Because addiction changes brain chemistry, because addiction is a disease, and because there are 130 opioid-related overdose deaths daily in the United States, the call for change is clear.
“We must change the way we talk about addiction,” Dufficy said. “We must do more.”
Dufficy lost her son, Matt, to a drug-related auto accident in 2015. Since then, she has been involved in a movement that seeks to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction, redirect enforcement resources regarding non-violent drug offenders, introduce harm reduction programs for addicts that could save lives, and introduce drug education in every grade level.
She wasn’t the only one at the event that called for dealers, pharmaceutical companies, members of the medical community, even the FDA to be held accountable for creating the opioid epidemic.
She called for more beds for the mentally ill, and those with addiction disorder. She called for a change to regulations requiring people have substances in their system before getting help.
“We have to increase the opportunities for those with the disease,” she said. “Lett’s move forward as a community.”
Jack Malone served as the MC for the event. Malone is a board member of Matt’s Mission and the president and executive director of the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. It was his job to introduce speakers from community organizations, town and state government officials, and some in long-term recovery.
Domenic Esposito from the Opioid Spoon Project and John Lally, executive director of Today I Matter, spoke about their efforts fighting the opioid epidemic.
One was a father of an addict who died, another a mother, another a brother. Three people in long-term recovery spoke about what it was like to be in the grips of addiction. All three said they were thankful for the help they received, and grateful for their second chances.
Daryl McGraw thanked people for supporting anyone in recovery and reminded them that recovery is possible.
“I used to be a dope dealer and now I’m a hope dealer,” he said. “I deal hope everywhere I can. Let’s enjoy this day. And let’s remember the ones who didn’t make it through the fight. We’re still fighting for them as well.”[Related] Challenges Remain For Jewett City 4-Year-Old »
Representatives from Perception Programs, Griswold PRIDE, Community Speaks Out, Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, and UCFS Healthcare were on-site.
Between introductions, Malone spoke of his own experiences with alcoholism and AA.
“I’ve been an alcoholic since 6:15 this morning,” he told that crowd. “That means I have today working for me. If I use the tools today, I can have a life. I can help someone else.”
Dufficy and April Wojcik gave Malone a plaque celebrating his 26 years and 83 days of recovery.
“Thank you for your unwavering support and leadership,” Dufficy said.
Written By: Denise Coffey
Denise reports on agriculture, conservation, education, the environment, government and the arts in northeastern Connecticut. She covers Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Plainfield, Pomfret, Putnam, Sterling, Scotland, Thompson and Woodstock.