Letter: 'What Can we do?' A sincere question with no magic answer
Editor of the Reformer,
After leaving the June Opiate Forum, I was asked in person and through several messages "but what can I do? What can we do?"
The question is a normal one to want to ask, however unless you are going to move into the fields of human services, substance use treatment, law enforcement, or first responder, legislation, or state administration, the "what you can do" is pretty darn limited. The usuals are there: advocate to your legislators to demand longer-term treatment options, with more robust treatment plans. Donate to community partners that are already undertaking this work....etc. High level hands-off stuff, all of which is excellent.
Speaking frankly as your fellow community member, this is my further response to add to those listed above: Consider carrying Narcan, and learn proper life saving techniques in case you come across an emergency situation. Understand how to respond to the finding of needles, and know how to handle and dispose of them properly. Consider how you are educating your children about this crisis - My 4- and 6-year-olds know what needles look like, and know that what is previously contained in said needles is something people think of as medicine for either their hurt bodies, or hurt minds and hearts. They know that this medicine is dangerous, and can make people very sick. They know to call for an adult if they see a needle, so it can be picked up. I do not instill fear, only facts. I want to empower them to be aware of others, and understanding of where others are on their personal journeys.
Perhaps most important of all, consider how you are caring for yourself. As more and more of the byproduct of pain, poverty, and cracks in our systems present themselves visually on a daily basis, symptoms of vicarious trauma and/or compassion fatigue can present. Triggers we didn't even know we had can crop up, and really make things challenging. Caring for yourself during these hard time is really important, so you can be wholly present to offer support, to educate your children, or simply to be able to be well enough to engage with those whose obvious struggles can be heartbreaking to see.
Brattleboro, July 11
Brandie Starr is chairwoman of the Brattleboro Select Board. The opinions expressed here are her own.
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