I was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey (near Exit 9, before you ask) and was fortunate enough to live and work in some cosmopolitan if not downright nearly-exotic places on the globe before becoming one of the lesser thorns here in the Rose of New England.
I’ve never pretended to myself or others that living in Norwich is close to life in the fast lane or being a Big Noise in the Big City, and there’s no tone of regret when I say that. I’ve discovered I enjoy watching the Big World from the pages of a newspaper or via a TV newscast.
More than once in a while, sometimes it feels like more than once in a week, I’ll read about something or watch a report on a Six O’clock News and shake my head at what seem to be wild times somewhere else. There’s a lot to be said for living in Safe as Houses, Eastern Connecticut.
But no matter how often I shake my head, or (and I’m not proud to admit this) try to close my eyes, we have a public safety threat and, quite frankly, a public health crisis right here and now with what experts are calling an epidemic of heroin abuse and overdoses.
The first step in overcoming any problem is to admit you have one. And while the curse of heroin addiction is not a problem unique to here, it is a rapidly growing problem here. The time is long past to stop turning away and, rather, turn and face the crisis before it devours us and our futures.
You’ve seen the police reports, and more on point, read the obituaries of neighbors and family members whose lives have ended because of heroin. If you think of those in your own circle of friends and acquaintances and do not know someone, or of someone, whose life has been shattered by heroin you are very fortunate. Or, more likely, you are kidding yourself.
Heroin abuse is a plague whose growth no single agency or program can halt or slow. It is a ravenous fire dangerously close to out of control that will consume all that we love and all that we are if we do not sit together, speak from one’s another’s hearts about causes and solutions and listen to those who can help us end this horribly human tragedy.
Tomorrow night, from 6:30 to 8:30 in Norwich Free Academy’s Slater Museum, a “Spotlight on Heroin” sponsored by NFA, Norwich Human Services, Norwich Heroin Task Force and Norwich Prevention Council, and the NFA Prevention Council will have speakers from local human services, medical and community awareness organizations on what we can, and must, do.
Neil Young once sang, “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done, a little part of it in everyone. But every junkie’s like a setting sun.” We need to be at NFA tomorrow night and, working together, make heroin history.