The recent New Bedford Light Meet the Reporters event was such a great opportunity for the community to come together to address different facets of the opioid crisis, from multiple perspectives. 

I was heartened to see the diverse group of individuals in attendance and even more importantly, to hear their perspectives. Addiction, fentanyl poisoning, mental health, need for housing, our community’s disconnectedness and supporting children who have been touched by this devastating crisis were some of the items discussed. The clear message was that despite progress and the great work of many, what we are doing is insufficient.

The good news is that people in our region and throughout the state have a unique opportunity to help make positive change. Millions of opioid settlement dollars are flowing into all parts of our state. Those funds represent the thousands of lives lost to drugs. Communities are stewards of this resource, so communities are also morally charged with making sure those lives were not lost in vain.

It is important that we put our words into action, and we need to make sure our actions are based on a thoughtful community strategy that addresses the multiple aspects of the problem at hand. We need multiple initiatives working simultaneously over the long term. Now is the time to set our intentions for the change we want to see, measure our progress, take positive risks to innovate, and most importantly come together collaboratively to manifest the change we want to see.

One way people can participate is to support the Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force. We need time, talent and treasure to reinvigorate our movement to prevent the onset of drug use, reduce the risks and harm to our community, treat those struggling with addiction and help people recover to find productivity and purpose beyond addiction. We have so far to go. The African proverb has never been truer — to go fast go alone, to go far go together.  Please join us. 

Carl Alves is CEO of PAACA, a nonprofit recovery support organization.

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