CANTON — On Thursday, March 9, Canton’s year of “Shining the Spotlight on Mental Wellness” kicks into high gear with an educational presentation, forum and resource fair on substance abuse prevention and the opioid/heroin epidemic. People from any town are encouraged to attend the free event.
Opioids, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, bind to the “opioid receptors, on cells found in many areas of the brain,” particularly those than control pain and pleasure.
Breathing, arousal and blood pressure are controlled by such receptors and overdoses of opioids generally result in slowed or zero breathing.
Heroin, derived from the morphine gathered from Asian poppy plants, is readily available, inexpensive and often becomes a substitute for other opioids.
Approximately 20 different organizations, including state departments, hospital, recovery networks, legal experts, policy advocates, emergency personnel and others will host booths at the March 9 “Substance Abuse Prevention and the Opioid/Heroin Epidemic” program.
It will include remarks from a recovering addict, as well as speakers Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, commissioner of the state department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Canton resident Maria Coutant Skinner, executive director at the McCall Center for Behavioral Health.
People can come and learn about the signs of addiction, common pathways to it, most affected age groups, risk factors, ways to help those affected and much more.
Claire M. Cote, director of Senior & Social Services, encourages people to come out to the forum, even if they don’t think the issue affects them. It likely affects someone we all know.
“To educate yourself on the signs and symptoms are a big part of this and understanding when somebody has a problem,” she said.
It’s also a chance for people to tap into resources they might not know existed, arrange for further help and education for a variety of issues, not just opioid abuse.
“This is an opportunity to ask those questions and get information,” she said. “The whole idea is to give people tools.”
Jennifer C. Kertanis, director of health for the Farmington Valley Health District, said the program will be useful for those struggling themselves, those looking to learn the signs of mental health and addiction, and to gain information on helping community members who are struggling.
“I think there’s power in that collective voice and all moving toward the same values and objectives,” she said.
The program is part of the Canton Mental Health Task Force year-long effort on mental wellness, coordinated by numerous local organizations, officials and agencies. Each month will carry a theme, with events or calls to action, advice and a letter in the Valley Press.
“The health district taking this on and spearheading this project has been so great and I hope we can promote it as a model,” Cote said.
The “Substance Abuse Prevention and the Opioid/Heroin Epidemic” forum takes place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday March 9 at the Canton Community Center, 40 Dyer Ave.
Kertanis knows it’s not an easy fix, but encourages everyone to come educate themselves.
“It didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going away overnight,” Kertanis said. “We need to continue to find ways to have this conversation.”
Call 2-1-1 or your local social services office if you are in need of support or information related to the opioid crisis.