Despite efforts to stem the tide of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts, the latest numbers suggest that a record number — some 2,000 people — died of overdoses last year.
One of the grassroots groups working to make a dent in this crisis is called Magnolia New Beginnings. It was formed by parents on the North Shore a few years ago to provide support to other parents and to help financially, providing scholarships for long term substance use treatment, which typically is not covered by health insurance.
Maureen Cavanagh founded the Marblehead-based group amid her daughter's struggles with substance use. She says she didn't know where to turn after heroin took over her daughter's, and then her life.
Maureen Cavanagh, founder and president of Magnolia New Beginnings, which tweets @magnolia01945.
On why she started Magnolia New Beginnings
"I started this group, initially, to be able to help people financially who needed a new beginning but it’s evolved into much more than that. It’s evolved into a whole support system, not only people that are seeking recovery in trying to navigate the system, but families and parents to find support ...
"These are all things that I didn’t have when I initially found out that my daughter was using. I had no idea where to turn. I didn’t know anybody else that had this problem. I felt like I was the only one that had this problem. Thank God I went to a Learn To Cope meeting. I always tell people to go to Learn to Cope, it’s the best out there for an in-person meeting.
"But it’s not always enough because you sometimes need something at 2 o’clock in the morning. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had on my Facebook page at 2 o’clock in the morning … because I can’t sleep and they can’t sleep. It’s good to know that there is someone else out there that is feeling like you’re feeling."
On why Magnolia focuses on raising money
"We try really hard to raise as much money as possible … $500 to $600 is a month's worth of sober living and that, sometimes, is the difference between somebody's life and death. Whether they’re going to go through 30 days, or 60 days, or 90 days of treatment and be feeling like they’re ready to change their life … to have to go to a shelter, that’s not conducive to recovery."
On how Magnolia fills a void in the treatment process
"There’s so many voids in this system. The continuum of care is the biggest place we fall down. It’s my belief … that people that are in recovery need to have a year of support, of supported living, in some way or another. You go through detox, you go through treatment ... and then you go into a good strong supported living environment where you’re surrounded by people in recovery. You’re keeping each other in check. You’re going through the whole first year of your recovery and all the things that happen to a person in life — a death, getting a job, losing a job, a birthday, fights with your family, breaking up with somebody ...
"For most people, they’ve been using drugs in order to deal with any of those things. So for years that was your go to — when you lost a job, you got high, whatever it was that you were dealing with in life, even the good things, you celebrated by getting high.
"How are you supposed to deal with life if you don’t have any experience dealing with life? So if you can have a year of that support, you have a much greater likelihood of holding onto your sobriety in a permanent way and that’s what we want."
On the failures of substance use disorder treatment
"That needs to change ... It’s not cost-effective to keep sending people out after a few days of detox or a short-term in treatment and then having them come back over and over … again, at best, or to die. But this constant in and out, in and out of treatment is very expensive.
"If we do it right, it actually turns out to be less expensive and we’re putting healthier people back into society and that makes sense all around."
On how the group hopes to improve state treatment programs
"... My hope is that when there’s a facility or if there’s a program not doing the right thing, we can work with them and make them better because it’s only to our benefit to have really good services in Massachusetts. We are so fortunate because I see what goes on in other states and we really are way ahead of the game as far as good services but there’s still work to be done."
This segment aired on February 22, 2017.