BELLOWS FALLS -- There is a growing concern about opioid abuse in the community. Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake a year ago said heroin use in the village was at epidemic proportions and the local high school recently hosted a presentation by a father whose son died of an overdose while at the University of Vermont.
In an attempt to clear up any confusion and answer difficult questions the community may have, Greater Falls Connections has scheduled a public forum for the lower level of the Rockingham Free Public Library from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday. The forum, titled "More Dreams -- Less Drugs!" stems from community concern regarding opioid use, abuse and addiction and will be moderated by community member Mike Smith.
It will feature a panel of people representing the law enforcement, medical and addiction treatment fields, and there is expected to be plenty of time for discussion and action planning.
Greater Falls Connections Media Coordinator Chad Simmons told the Reformer Lt. Shane Harris of the BFPD and Brooke Sherwood, a registered nurse from the Rockingham Medical Group, have agreed to serve as panelists Thursday night. He had booked a representative from Turning Point Recovery Center of Springfield, but that individual cannot make it and someone else will hopefully be recruited to the panel.
Simmons said professional diversity is vital at public forums like these because opioid abuse involves every aspect of a community.
"We want to look at the full spectrum," he said Monday. "We're focused on why people are addicted to opioids and prescription drugs, how that happens. That's why we have such a diversity of panelists."
He said it is simple to put on a screen a bunch of lists and data but the panelists are brought in to complement all the facts with relevant stories to add a human element to some unnerving statistics.
The first half of the forum will focus of the community as a whole and highlight the relevance of drug abuse to it. Simmons said the first half will put things into context for the attendants, while the second half will involve trying to figure out what people can do as individuals, and as a community, to curb this problem.
Simmons said the youth leadership group at Bellows Falls Middle School will also have representation at the forum.
He told the Reformer statistics show abuse of opioids is slightly higher in the area compared to the rest of the state, but most of the figures pertain to arrests and admissions to recovery centers.
More information can be found at greaterfallsconnections.org.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.