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Walsh’s office to host addiction awareness events for National Recovery Month

To observe National Recovery Month this September, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s Office of Recovery Services will host a series of community events throughout the month that will focus on addiction recovery, mental health and addiction awareness. 

Walsh, in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission, announced the month’s programming in an Aug. 30 press release.

To mark the beginning of the month, City Hall was lit purple Saturday to spread drug overdose awareness, honoring the lives that were lost or impacted by overdoses.

Upcoming events include overdose prevention response training sessions on Sept. 9 and 17, where attendees will learn how to use Narcan, a life saving drug that reverses opioid overdoses,  and rescue breathing techniques. The trainings are free to the public and will be held at BPHC’s 774 Albany St. location.

Brendan Little, policy director of the city’s Office of Recovery Services, said the overdose prevention training curriculum were designed by Access, Harm Reduction, Overdose Prevention and Education, which is the city’s addiction prevention and recovery program.

“It’s really just about saving lives,”  Little said. “… We want to make sure that Narcan is available to help anybody who might be struggling from an opiate overdose.”

Later in the month, the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery will host its 29th Annual Recovery Month Celebration at City Hall Plaza on Sept. 16. The rally will include recovery advocates and legislators and will conclude with a march to Faneuil Hall, according to the press release.

Little said MOAR was an essential player in Massachusetts fight against opioid addiction, as it works to advocate for all aspects of addiction recovery.

“MOAR has been a solid partner from the beginning. MOAR is one of the best advocates. They really are the voice of recovery in Massachusetts,” Little said.

On the Sept. 21, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center will host a Recovery Month Interfaith Service, in which residents across all beliefs will gather to “remember and celebrate recovery leaders” in the Boston community, according to the press release.

Little said that the City had hosted mainy interfaith events in the past, and that this month, the city decided to break tradition and host an interfaith event at a mosque after hearing testimony from Muslims whose lives were affected by substance abuse.

“We’ve done primarily Christian or Catholic churches,” Little said, “and we wanted to make sure that we represented all faiths and make it truly interfaith.”

Little said National Recovery Month is organized every year by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which decides each year’s theme. 

“But then we take a local spin and really try to lift up [local] issues,” Little said. 

Last year, the city hosted a Recovery Month community read, he continued, partnering with Boston Public Library to study a book called Dreamland, which explores the history of America’s opioid epidemic.

This year, Little said that the City of Boston will focus on raising awareness around substance abuse and engaging residents to work together to help victims recover.

“We understand that we are in a substance use epidemic,” Little said, “but also that recovery is possible and that there’s a lot of people in recovery who go on to live, meaningful, and happy lives.”

Travis Patterson, 32, of Woburn, said he believes the city is doing what it can to combat the opioid crisis and help the people of Boston recover.

“I haven’t really been following [the city’s] recovery,” Patterson said, “and just know that they’re trying to cope with it, based on what I saw last year on the news. Can they do more? Of course.”

Amherst resident Karen Ranen, 61, said she was a newly retired school nurse who worked with students in 7th to 12th grade, and that she saw students grapple with substance abuse throughout her career.

“You know, I just think in general, so much more has to be paid attention to in terms of mental illness and just socio-cultural issues,” she said.

David Ranen, 62, Amherst, is a retired middle school assistant principal who recognized the need to spread awareness of substance abuse after seeing numerous students fall victim to the epidemic.

“So whatever they’re doing is great,” Ranen said. “We still need to make so many more strides with these kids.”

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