A Night of Hope will raise awareness about addiction Sept. 22

Sep 12, 2019 by

Publishing September 11, 2019

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Addiction has inflicted a tremendous amount of pain on people and communities across the United States.

Lynnfield is no exception.

In order to raise awareness about substance use and mental health, A Healthy Lynnfield and Think of Michael have come together to host the first annual A Night of Hope on Sunday, Sept. 22, beginning at 6 p.m. at Lynnfield Middle School. A Healthy Lynnfield is the town’s substance abuse coalition that works to “prevent substance misuse, improve the quality of life for those impacted and support programs that help all young people thrive.”

Selectman Dick Dalton and his family formed the nonprofit organization Think of Michael in memory of their son and brother, Michael, who passed away from an opiate overdose while in outpatient treatment on Jan. 13, 2018. The nonprofit seeks to help people suffering from substance abuse by funding scholarships that allow people in recovery to stay at a sober house.

The first annual A Night of Hope seeks to provide support for people and their families impacted by substance use.

“What we want to do is erase the stigma and make people aware that substance use is a problem,” said Think of Michael President Carmela Dalton. “It’s definitely a problem in our town.”

Dick said he is convinced that at least one person with ties to Lynnfield dies from addiction “every month.”

“We are now part of a network of people where we find out a lot of different things,” said Dick. “That’s why we are all passionate about it. We all talk about the impact it’s having on this community. Everyone looks at national statistics, but you don’t grasp the extent of the problem until it touches home.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford, who leads A Healthy Lynnfield, agreed.

“We are pretty confident that one young adult from Lynnfield dies per month,” said Crawford. “That is one too many. We are trying to change that statistic.”

Carmela recalled that A Healthy Lynnfield member Mary Stewart attended similar events in other communities and suggested the town follow in those communities’ footsteps.

“Mary approached us and asked us to hold the event,” said Carmela. “When I went home that night, I suggested to Richard that we do it and we join forces with A Healthy Lynnfield. We had save-the-dates at Geraniumfest.”

Crawford noted, “September is National Recovery Month.”

“These types of events are going on across the country during the month of September,” he said. “We thought it would be appropriate to do this for the first time in the month of September.”

A Night of Hope will begin at 6 p.m., when Town Administrator Rob Dolan will kick off the ceremony. Carmela said attendees will be given purple T-shirts, purple lights and a star with twine that will unite A Healthy Lynnfield and Think of Michael.

“People will be able to write a message on the stars,” said Carmela.

After attendees gather at LMS, they will walk to the Town Common. Dick said the town center will be decorated with purple ribbons and purple lights because “purple is the color of recovery.” He said several properties including Centre Congregational Church, Centre Farm, Lynnfield Public Library, the Meeting House, Town Hall and Jay Kimball’s Main Street home will be decorated with purple lights and ribbons.

“I think it will be very impressive and moving,” said Dick.

A Healthy Lynnfield

After attendees arrive on the Common, Crawford will be giving an overview of the initiatives A Healthy Lynnfield has undertaken the past couple of years.

Crawford noted the town has partnered with William James College’s INTERFACE helpline, which is a mental health referral service.

Additionally, Crawford said A Healthy Lynnfield has been funding presentations in the town’s schools that seek to raise awareness about mental health and substance use. He said results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey taken by students in grades 7-12 revealed several alarming statistics about alcohol use, suicidal thoughts and vaping. Students in grades 7-12 will be taking the survey again this fall, which will be funded by Lahey Health once again.

“The survey brought a lot of things to light,” said Crawford. “We have a lot of new speaking engagements and presentations planned.”

Think of Michael

After Crawford gives an overview of A Healthy Lynnfield’s initiatives, Dick will be sharing Michael’s story with the community.

“Since Michael passed, people have come up to Carmela and I and have shared their problems and their issues,” said Dick. “It’s far more widespread than we have ever imagined. I would often think that Carmela and I were in an unusual situation with a son as an addict. It’s not unusual.”

Dick recalled that Think of Michael’s first annual Trivia Night last January raised over $90,000. He said the nonprofit has been working with Magnolia New Beginnings and has been frequently awarding scholarships that allow people in recovery to stay in a sober house for 30 days.

“We are really serving eastern Massachusetts,” said Dick. “We gave out two scholarships last week.”

“Sober houses are not covered by insurance,” Carmela added.

Dick also said Think of Michael has partnered with Massachusetts General Hospital’s West End Clinic in order to help people in recovery re-enter the workforce. He said the nonprofit organization has been working with Hollister Staffing founder/CEO Kip Hollister in order to help people in recovery find work.

“This is for young professionals because there is often no place for them to go,” said Carmela.

Dick also said Recovery Works, which has partnered with Think of Michael, was awarded a $200,000 grant in the state budget that seeks to support employers who hire people in recovery. He thanked state Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and House Speaker Robert DeLeo for securing the grant in the state budget.

Moving ceremony planned

After the two selectmen conclude their respective speeches, Lynnfield native Alex Costa will serve as A Night of Hope’s guest speaker at 7 p.m. He is the current marketing director for West Palm Beach, Florida-based Allure Detox.

“Alex is a recovering addict,” said Dick. “Michael is the tragedy of the story and Alex is the hope of the story.”

After Costa concludes his remarks, a lighting ceremony will take place and the Lynnfield faith community will give a blessing.

Crawford noted a number of organizations will have informational tables set up on the Common. The organizations that will be appearing are Banyan, Bridgewell, Children’s Friend and Family Services, the Department of Children and Families, Eliot Community Services, Health Recovery Solutions, Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services, Lahey Health Behavioral Services, Learn to Cope, Magnolia New Beginnings, the Essex District Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR), Parenting Journey, Partners HealthCare, Riverside Community Cares, Recovery Centers of America and Serenity at Summit.

“We want the community to know we are here to help them and support them,” said Crawford.

Carmela said the two organizations would like to host A Night of Hope every September. She encouraged residents to attend the ceremony.

“As a parent, losing a child is the most painful experience,” said Carmela. “There are no more happy holidays or happy birthdays. A very important piece of our family is gone. For wherever a beautiful soul has been, there is a path for beautiful memories. Think of Michael.”

Dick said the outpouring of support the two nonprofits have received from the community is greatly appreciated.

“The support we have gotten from the churches, School Department and town administration has been terrific,” said Dick. “Everyone has been really involved with this and we are very hopeful for a very successful and well-attended night.”

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