Upcoming Addiction Presentation Could Save Lives

As the opioid addiction epidemic spreads across the country, and even takes root in our very own Tri-Town, the issue of addiction – opioids, alcohol, nicotine, all addictions – has become a priority for area public health employees who serve the Tri-Town citizens.

Especially susceptible to addiction are the youth of Tri-Town, and as recent youth risk surveys at the junior and high school have shown, the risk is present and very real as young adults make poor decisions to try addictive substances long before the development of their brain’s frontal lobes can dictate otherwise.

Reverend Catherine Harper at Saint Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Marion has seen firsthand the effects that addiction has on the youth of the community and their families struggling to support loved ones afflicted with addiction. Harper, along with Public Health Nurse Kathleen Downey, has joined the addiction awareness movement in Tri-Town to get residents, especially children, informed on addiction and how parents and caregivers can arm themselves with the knowledge to keep their children safe from the perils of addiction.

A few of Harper’s parishioners had approached her, seeking guidance and support for their families struggling with a family member with addiction.

“These parishioners and myself decided we wanted to bring some education and awareness to our parish community and out into the community to bring awareness of what’s going on,” said Harper. Many in Tri-Town communities, Harper said, believe, “It’s not me, it doesn’t have anything to do to me,” said Harper, “and not realizing that it’s happening around the corner.”

“I was not aware really of how bad the crisis was, and seeing the need and trying to encourage our parishioners to get involved,” said Harper. “Now we’ve all come together to address addition.”

The first step was a survey amongst prominent town leaders – elected and appointed officials, religious leaders, law enforcement, and educators – who are in cornerstone positions of the community.

“What came back on every single survey was, pay attention to the high school kids, the junior high school kids, go back to the schools,” said Harper. “And it’s all substances, not just opioids.”

The youth risk assessment survey soon followed, which returned shocking statistics on junior and senior high school student experimentation with addictive substances, the impetus for the establishing of the community-wide group Healthy Tri-Town Coalition, whose aim is to increase awareness of addiction and other matters that threaten the health of Tri-Town citizens.

According to Downey, Tri-Town has seen its share of tragedy caused by addiction. “There have been deaths in the Tri-Town,” Downey said, and the use of Narcan (Nalaxone) within the community to save lives from opioid overdose.

“There are families that are deeply involved,” said Downey. “Overdoses, kids in the school system…. We haven’t lost a student to an overdose, but we have lost recent graduates, which makes it all the more compelling that we have to get involved.”

Downey offered some scary statistics: just one dose of an addictive substance of any kind to a child age 13 and under raises that child’s chance of future addiction by 25% and up to 50%, depending on the study cited.

“That is scary,” said Downey. These substances include seemingly harmless medications like cough syrup with codeine, and Percocet often prescribed for pain.

To drive home the message that every child – your child – is susceptible to addiction, the coalition has brought in renowned speaker Dr. Ruth Potee on “The Developing Brain and Addiction,” on Thursday, April 27, in the ORR High School auditorium.

Potee is one of Massachusetts’ leading experts on the physiology of addiction and the teenage brain.

The coalition believes the attendance of ALL parents in Tri-Town is critical to parents understanding the risk factors and how to protect their children.

Whether the addictive element is drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, video games, or caffeine, the understanding of how addition “re-wires” the brain is essential in order to prevent it. Dr. Potee will offer this information and more, said Downey, who encourages both parents and children to come to the event.

“She had a very powerful dialog, just talking about, as a family member, the hurt and the pain that they went through,” said Downey. “She held everybody. She engages the audience. She’s really impressive.”

The risk to opioid addiction in particular is of increasing importance now, Downey said, as powerful and deadly opioids have started appearing in cocaine and marijuana, which have caused the overdoses of young people in Brockton, as reported by medical staff at Brockton Hospital, Downey pointed out.

These victims, said Downey, claimed never to have tried opioids, yet Narcan was able to recover the victims from an overdose – and Narcan only works on opioids.

“This is not just starting,” said Downey. “We’re going to continue to see more and more cases and anybody who thinks this does not affect this community, they’re nuts.”

A key element to protecting kids, said Downey, is to reach them younger than we have thus far, all the way into pre-school.

“And erase the stigma,” said Downey. “We have to address the stigma.”

“I’m just praying that kids and parents will come to this,” said Harper.

When people finally open their eyes to addiction, said Downey, they wonder how they missed it up until then.

“It’s just being open to it and saying, you know, I’m not going to be surprised,” said Downey.

Downey wants to see all Tri-Town teens at the April 27 presentation.

“We hope to fill that auditorium,” Downey said.

The Dr. Ruth Potee presentation of “The Developing Brain and Addiction” is Thursday, April 27, at 7:00 pm at the Old Rochester Regional High School Auditorium. The event is free to the public. Refreshments will be served. For further information, visit www.healthytritowncoalition.org.

By Jean Perry


Hammond Quarry Walk

Join the Mattapoisett Land Trust (MLT) for a guided walk to the Hammond Quarry on Sunday Hammond Quarry Walk to be held on Sunday, April 23, at 1:00 pm. This former granite quarry was once an important part of the Town’s history and early industry. Owned primarily by the Hammond family, the quarry operated from the early 1700s until the early 1900s and produced pink granite for which Mattapoisett was well known in early times. The quarry site includes one remaining granite outcrop and two abandoned pits: the larger and dry East Pit and the smaller West Pit that holds water. In addition, there are large amounts of worked granite rubble as well as some abandoned quarry equipment in and around the pits.

MLT is working with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to preserve 53 acres surrounding the quarry site. Come join us and see this special place! The walk will depart across the road from 7 and 9 Mattapoisett Neck Road, just south of Route 6. Please park on the west side of Mattapoisett Neck Road. The trail is gentle, but wear sturdy shoes and dress for the weather.

For more information, please email us at info@mattlandtrust.org.

Mattapoisett Road Race College Stipends

The Fourth of July will be here before we know it, which means it’s time to start training for the Mattapoisett Road Race! Now in its 47th year, this 5-mile race through scenic Mattapoisett is an Independence Day tradition. Proceeds from the race are used to fund awards for college-bound senior athletes from Old Rochester Regional High School. Over the years, more than $150,000 has been given to deserving students from Mattapoisett, Marion and Rochester. More details and the application form are available on the College Stipends tab at mattapoisettroadrace.com. Applications are due by May 5.

Free Women’s Self-defense Course

Mattapoisett Recreation will be hosting a self-defense techniques class on Wednesday, May 10 from 6:00 – 9:00 pm at Center School Gymnasium in Mattapoisett. The class is F.A.S.T.T. – E.S.C.A.P.E., which stands for Fast Aggressive Strikes Targeting Trauma – Every Second Counts, Avoid Pre-attack Encounters. This realistic training session was developed by Major Dwayne Fortes. Major Fortes will be offering this FREE training courtesy of Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald, Jr. and the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department. The program is open to women age 14 and up. To sign up, please email Mattapoisett Recreation at mattrec@mattapoisett.net. Please provide the following in the email: Name, contact phone number, and email address for each person wishing to participate. We will confirm receipt of email and if openings are available. Please note that space is limited, so register as soon as possible.

New Bedford Harbor Sea Chantey Chorus

It will be a free afternoon performance of salty songs at the Mattapoisett Free Public Library on Sunday, April 30, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm as the New Bedford Harbor Sea Chantey Chorus come to perform a sing-song.

Formed in 2000 under the direction of Tom Goux, the 25 plus voice chorus presents a repertoire that reflects the rich maritime heritage of New Bedford and the region. Weaving musical traditions connected to New Bedford Harbor and the New England seafarer, their performances feature the chanteys (work songs) of the Yankee sailor and whaler, ballads and ditties of global mariners, and songs of coastwise fisherfolk in North America, the Cape Verde Islands and the British Isles.

The Mattapoisett Library is located at 7 Barstow Street and is handicapped accessible.

Marion Arbor Day Partners With Local Elections

Arbor Day is usually celebrated in the USA on the last Friday of April. This year it falls on April 28, a time for citizens of all ages to plant trees across our landscape. On the first Arbor Day in 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted throughout America.

Marion will celebrate Arbor Day this spring two weeks later on May 12. The Tree and Parks Committee will be giving out a Rose of Sharon shrub to the first 100 voters as they exit the polls at the VFW Hall on Town Election Day. It is hoped that those who receive a tree to plant somewhere in town will also take a trash bag or two and do an hour of litter pick up. The Arbor Day Table with free trees and trash bags will be located outside the polls from 9:00 am to noon. Members of the Marion Tree and Parks Committee will be on hand to give you a tree and to explain the litter clean-up guidelines.

Facilities Dept. Pushes for ADA Accessibility

The facilities manager in Rochester told the Board of Selectmen on April 10 that for weeks he has been self-assessing handicap accessibility within Rochester buildings and properties, and he gave the board a summary of what steps he would like to take next to bring the town into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

Facilities manager Andrew Daniel invited Rochester resident Andrew Revell to address the selectmen, bringing his perspective to the matter as a man whose mobility relies on a wheelchair.

Revell, a gerontology professor at UMass Dartmouth, has been assisting other towns with ADA self-assessment and transition plan development. He looks for ways to improve resources for people with disabilities, he said, including simple things such as parking, signage, and restroom access – or lack thereof.

“…Like our bathroom here,” said Revell. “I use the bathroom before I come here … and I have to leave here to use the bathroom somewhere else because it’s not accessible.”

Revell said he assisted the Town of Hudson in applying for grants for other resources, such as door-to-door transportation for the disabled. Younger people with disabilities are not eligible for council on aging transportation, he pointed out, and the Town of Rochester does not belong to a regional transit authority like Mattapoisett and Wareham do.

Revell suggested seeking to make Rochester a member of the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority to provide disability transportation.

“The major number one thing for people with disabilities is social isolation,” said Revell.

Revell asked the board to commit to pursuing the possibility of moving towards these goals, and asked whether the Town of Rochester would seek to form a Tri-Town commission on disabilities. He said Mattapoisett once had one, but it dissolved about a decade ago due to a low number of people with disabilities healthy enough to attend meetings.

“I think it would help get some people out of their homes … and meet some other disabled people,” Revell said.

Revell has two children at Rochester Memorial School. He said, “I’m very interested in disabled conditions for everybody, including our children. I’d like to think about children with disabilities, not just older people with disabilities.

“I’ve spoken with the two other towns,” said Daniel, regarding a regionalized effort to become ADA compliant. “And also your odds for grants would increase. That’s definitely a good option for Rochester to choose to be part of this community…. I think its well worth doing.”

The selectmen decided to consult with town counsel on the best way to move forward.

Daniel said he thought that he knew quite a bit about ADA compliance because of his knowledge of the building code, “But what I really learned was that I’d only just touched the surface.” He added that municipalities were supposed to be compliant by January 1996 under Title 2.

Daniel said a state grant for up to $250,000 is available for ADA compliance, and since the Town has already joined with the state in a community compact agreement, those funds would be even more possible.

Daniel has already submitted his self-assessment findings to the state for review of his evaluation and draft transition plan.

“Every building could use something,” said Daniel, “whether it be automatic door push buttons,” wider thresholds, or van parking spots. Daniel also advocated for looking into beach wheelchairs so that those with disabilities can access the shoreline.

“That’s a lot of work,” said Chairman Naida Parker. “Thank you.”

In other matters, Daniel also addressed the need for more filing space at the Town Hall Annex, again recommending the town seek a new model of movable file systems that could increase file storage by 50 percent. The cost would be around $52,000, a one-time expense that could be moved in the future should the Town find a viable option for a new town hall annex location.

The $52,000 will appear on the town meeting warrant as an article. Also on the warrant will be an article to appropriate $5,000 to join the two other Tri-Town towns in funding a “forensic financial audit” of ORR budget spending.

The deadline for submitting articles for the Annual Town Meeting on May 22 is April 22.

The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for April 24 at 6:30 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

By Jean Perry


Budget Supports Special Education and Small Class Size

The Mattapoisett School Committee held a public hearing for the FY 2018 school budget prior to their regular meeting on April 10 at Center School. The public hearing was sparsely attended; however, the debate generated by a single attendee was significant.

Superintendent Doug White outlined the priorities of the school committee and the drivers behind the development of the budget, including promoting academic and social-emotional rigor, special education services, and technology and security needs. The budget, approved unanimously by the committee, is a 1.99% increase over last year, totaling $6,917,439.

White said overall student enrollment in the district has steadily decreased, showing the October 2016 enrollment of 484 students, of which 55 are students with disabilities. Due to a smaller cohort of students currently in Grade 3 moving through the district, the committee was able to shift a general education teacher from Grade 3 to kindergarten to maintain four sections of kindergarten after a teacher retired last summer, and reducing Grade 3 to three sections. Maintaining the number of sections for K-3 will keep the number of students under 20 per class.

White underscored a portion of the budget that reflected an increase in Individual Education Plans, known as IEPs, as well as the district philosophy that special education students be educated within the school district and integrated in the classroom and the school community.

White noted the importance of “meeting the needs of students with special needs and with IEPs and providing a good and appropriate free education.”

The budget reflects a .4 increase in the position of the school psychologist, increasing that position from .6 to full time, and expanding the job description to include behavior analyst as part of her job. This in-house position will assist teachers with intervention in the classroom and assessment of students.

Director of Student Services Michael Nelson said, “It’s a point of pride that not just special ed teachers, but all staff, own the special education students.” He noted that providing special ed services within the school district saves the town money, and having the behavior analyst within the school rather than contracting it out is also a cost-saving measure. Nelson stated, “The cost of one teacher providing special education services to the whole school is equivalent to sending just one to two students out of district for those services.”

Committee member Jim Muse concurred with the value of this service, stating that Mattapoisett provides the special ed services “in the classroom, not out of district or a school within a school.”

When the public hearing was opened, Patricia Donaghue, chairman of the Finance Committee, voiced grave concerns for the financial future of Mattapoisett.

“Many of our town departments are significantly affected by the change in demographics of the town – it’s tough to get volunteer daytime firefighters, the Council on Aging has increased needs.” She said the money must come from somewhere, and the 16.8% decline since 2011 in school enrollment points to a declining need in the school department. With a teacher retiring, it provides an opportunity to reduce the staff, Donaghue said.

“I’m thinking globally. I spoke with friends in other towns like Medfield who say you’re living a dream with class sizes like this.” She continued, “Are we funding like we need, or is it luxury funding?”

Donaghue referred to studies she has read that do not indicate any correlation between class size and student academic success.

Committee Chairman James Higgins surmised that if 100 teachers were polled about class size, “They would suggest that smaller class size facilitates more effective assessment and assistance to special education students within the class.” He added, “The proof is in the pudding – our schools are ranked Level 1, our results in standardized tests show the benefit of small class size, and the inclusion of special ed in the classroom is a benefit for everyone.”

Donaghue noted the small kindergarten class sizes in 2016 and wondered about the accuracy of the projections for 2017.

Principal Rose Bowman noted that current small kindergarten class size is highly unusual, and her expectation of student enrollment in kindergarten is based on current fall 2017 enrollment and projections from now through the summer. If student needs change, the district will adjust accordingly, Bowman said.

Donaghue was unrelenting in her concern for the changing needs of the town, saying that small class sizes are nice, “But can we afford it? People need to ask the question of whether we are allocating our funding appropriately given our changing demographics.”

Bowman reiterated that there was not an increase in teacher salary budget, but that a teacher was shifted from a Grade 3 class to a kindergarten class, and the only salary increase was a .4 increase for the behavior analyst, which was a change in the school psychologist job description.

White responded to Donaghue’s concerns, noting that he had information that he could not specifically talk about because it related to special ed, “But it could significantly impact our existing classrooms. You’re a numbers person; I need to look at the human side.”

Muse added, “Our job is to look at the needs of the school, and we have had pretty accurate projections, shifting staff without adding personnel.” He noted that Mattapoisett is fortunate to have a school staff that has the flexibility to move from one expertise to another.

Committee member Carter Hunt concluded the public hearing with praise for the district staff. “We have to trust that they have done their due diligence for the needs of the classroom and to keep our schools in a position that we can be proud of.”

Later in the meeting, Higgins summarized the sentiment of the committee: “Education doesn’t cost, it pays.”

In other business, Bowman reported that the MCAS testing is starting and Associate Principal Kevin Tavares is assisting the students. Most of the testing is being done online, except for Grade 5 science, which is still done with pencil and paper.

            The next scheduled meeting of the Mattapoisett School Committee is May 15 at 7:00 pm. A Mattapoisett School Committee School Choice Hearing will be held at 6:30 pm the same evening.

By Sarah French Storer


History and Mystery with Author Stephen Puleo

There was a healthy turnout of American history buffs at the Mattapoisett Free Public Library on Sunday afternoon to hear author, historian, and teacher Stephen Puleo discuss his latest book, American Treasures: The Secret Efforts to Save the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address.

Puleo is the author of six narrative nonfiction books, including Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1819. Kathleen Damaskos of the Mattapoisett Historical Society introduced the author, saying, “Any fan of American history, often with a Boston or Massachusetts flavor, will want to read all of [Puleo’s books].”

Puleo lives in Weymouth with his wife, Kate, who couldn’t accompany him on Sunday as she often does. Having spoken at such venues as the National Archives in Washington D.C. and the National Constitution Museum, this was his first visit to Mattapoisett.

Puleo began his talk by sharing how the idea for the book, published roughly six months ago, first took shape in his mind.

“The book had its genesis … really about eight years ago,” Puleo said. He had read a small article in a history magazine about how the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the original Gettysburg Address had been moved from Washington D.C. to Fort Knox shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor due to “fears of German bombers or German sabotage.”

“I said, ‘Wow, I never heard of this…. This is really fascinating,’” he recalled. The article started him ruminating about why President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish felt “such a strong stewardship for these documents, why did they feel it was so necessary to protect them…. What’s behind it?”

In order to understand what made these documents so important to American morale and American national history, Puleo realized, “One of the things you had to do was go back to the creation of these documents and to go back to some ways in which these documents were protected and preserved over the period of American history.”

To do that, he constructed the book as a “braided narrative,” meaning it moves back and forth between “present day” (the World War II narrative) to other significant periods in American history.

The book looks at different times when these “precious documents” had to be protected, both from dramatic threats like the British burning of Washington D.C. in 1814, as well as from more mundane (but still very real) threats like humidity, fading, vermin, etc.

In December of 1952, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address were moved for the last time from the Library of Congress to the National Archives, where their protection continues to be of utmost importance.

“When you think about it, the history of these documents is really the history of the United States,” Puleo said.

The talk – co-sponsored by the historical societies of Freetown, Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Wareham – was followed by a question-and-answer period and book signing.

Puleo’s website, www.stephenpuleo.com, includes summaries and reviews of his books, a blog, and links to his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

By Deina Zartman

ORR Tackles Student Speeding to School

The ORR school resource officer Matthew McGraw was asked by the Old Rochester Regional School Committee to look into reports of students speeding in their vehicles to school on Route 6, especially from the Marion direction. On April 5, McGraw reported his findings, prompting the committee and ORR Principal Michael Devoll to consider creating a policy to address the problem.

McGraw contacted the Marion Police Department about a month ago and over the past several weeks the Marion Police had more patrol cars monitoring student drivers on Route 6, resulting in several students being pulled over. That prior Friday alone, nine students were stopped for speeding.

“It’s like the Indie 500,” McGraw said, “especially at the end of the day.”

Speeding is of particular concern at the Marion S-curve where most violations have been witnessed.

McGraw wants the committee as well as administrators to consider a policy that would impose consequences upon student drivers caught speeding to and from school to warn them “to start acting smartly behind the wheel,” McGraw said, adding that police would prefer such measures to issuing citations to the student drivers.

“We don’t have a problem writing citations,” McGraw told the committee, saying first-time student speeders usually receive a verbal warning. “We don’t want to jam kids up with a driving history at such a young age.”

McGraw said he was looking for more of a “halfway smack on the hand” from the school end to help curb student speeding in the future.

McGraw had looked to other area schools for suggestions in policies addressing student vehicle operators, finding Old Colony’s method of communication with police and the community beneficial. When the school receives a report of student speeding, parking privileges are suspended.

Some suggestions for a policy at ORR included suspending parking privileges and also making the parking permit application “more intimidating,” as committee member James Muse suggested. McGraw said a system of having the student passengers of student drivers sign an agreement to report unsafe driving by their drivers might employ “peer pressure” in helping to solve the problem.

According to Devoll, “Very, very few senior high school students are on busses after school,” leaving many to either drive themselves or ride with other students as a way of getting to and from school.

The committee is looking towards drafting a policy to put into effect for the coming school year.

In other matters, the committee approved the establishment of a community garden on the ORR school grounds to be run by the students of the ORR special education transitional program for ages 18-22.

Teacher Becky Okolita received permission to go ahead with a 30- by 90-foot garden to be located behind the school, which will be piloted by the four students currently in Okolita’s class.

“We are looking for real life opportunities to integrate functional academics and life skills and transitional skills,” Okolita told the committee.

Okolita said she got the idea by looking at the Capabilities organization in Dennis where adult clients with disabilities are working on a farm growing and selling vegetables and fruits as part of the program.

Okolita seeks to foster further community-based skills and integration for her students and has procured a $500 grant to help start up the project.

An experienced gardener in Marion, she said, has also joined in to assist Okolita in establishing the garden, even assisting her in compiling a list of much needed supplies and tools to get growing.

The garden would be accessible, she said, to people of all levels of mobility to become a true community garden. The fruits of their labor would be sold at local farmer’s markets, and Okolita said she might reach out to local organizations that help local families put food on their tables.

Okolita chose to name the project the EmpowORR garden, “Because I think that it’s important to empower students with the skills for a successful future.”

The EmpowORR garden project still needs donations of money as well as supplies. She has set up a fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/orrhsgardenandgreenhouse. Please contact Becky Okolita at rebeccaokolita@oldrochester.org for more information on how to donate supplies.

The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for May 10 at 6:30 pm in the junior high media room.

By Jean Perry