Local service providers brought their message Monday night to the Portuguese-speaking community: Help is available for families struggling with opioid addiction.
A panel of seven speakers addressed about a dozen people gathered at the Immigrants’ Assistance Center to present information and answer questions. Hosted by the center’s Helena DaSilva Hughes and state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, the discussion was conducted mostly in Portuguese, with Cabral and another panelist translating comments from the two panelists who did not speak the language into Portuguese.
Some members of the audience spoke with clear emotion.
DaSilva Hughes, summarizing the remarks in an English-language interview afterward, said one parent spoke of her children’s addiction, and in response, one of the panelists, Rosa Medeiros of Steppingstone Inc., said families must remember to take care of themselves while they try to help their children.
After DaSilva Hughes spoke on Portuguese-language radio about the forum, she received telephone calls from people who wanted information but were not ready to attend a public forum because of the stigma of addiction, she said.
“One of the things we want to do is create a support group for these families that are affected by the opioid crisis,” she said.
In addition to Medeiros, speakers included: Carl Alves, executive director, Positive Action Against Chemical Addiction (PAACA); Dr. Robert J. Caldas, senior vice president and chief medical officer, Southcoast Health; J.J. Bartlett, president, Fishing Partnership Support Services; Andy Robinson, Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Abuse Services; Connie Rocha-Mimoso, director of community health services, Seven Hills Behavioral Health; and New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro.
Bartlett, speaking in English, said he, Rocha-Mimoso, and others are teaching fishermen how to use the overdose rescue drug Narcan. The Coast Guard doesn’t carry it, and fishermen face particular challenges, he said. Medicines prescribed for chronic pain from their physical labor can be dangerous.
“One thing we need to understand about the fishing industry is how difficult it is on the bodies of the fishermen,” he said. “And fishermen can’t take time off or they won’t make a living.”
Robinson, also speaking in English, recommended the Massachusetts substance use helpline, 1-800-327-5050, which offers interpreters for non-English-speaking callers. The helpline also has a website, at www.helpline-online.com.
Video of the first hour of Monday’s forum, in Portuguese, is available on the SouthCoastToday Facebook page.