Break the Silence MV brings key officials together

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From left, Christine Todd, Learn to Cope Founder Joanne Peterson, Melissa Vincent, and Marit Bezahler. — Bella Bennett

Break the Silence MV gathered a group of representatives from local law enforcement, the hospital, community services, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in the Edgartown Public Library Wednesday to work out the details of bringing Learn to Cope to the Island.

Learn to Cope is a nonprofit dedicated to providing support, education, and resources to families affected by opiate abuse. The organization was founded in 2004 by Joanne Peterson, in response to her son’s life-threatening battle against heroin addiction. There are now 28 Learn to Cope chapters, all of which hold weekly meetings to provide communities with confidential, safe spaces to share their stories, learn about their options, and most important, support one another.

“In Massachusetts,” Ms. Peterson noted, “we’re losing at least six people a day to fatal overdoses.” This statistic speaks to the importance of groups like Break the Silence MV, and its efforts to expand with the addition of an Island chapter of Learn to Cope.

Break the Silence MV members Christine Todd, Marit Bezahler, and Melissa Vincent traveled to Worcester last week to attend a Learn to Cope facilitator training. One of the major points of Wednesday’s meeting was the necessity for this program on the Island as a way to begin deconstructing the stigma attached to opiate addiction. Ms. Vincent spoke of the loneliness and isolation that addicts and their families face, noting, “We come from a community of caring individuals, we just don’t know how to care for people struggling with substance abuse.”

Learn to Cope provides a direct support network, peer support for addicts seeking treatment, and education, all of which aid the community and bring people together. Learn to Cope also provides training on how to administer Narcan, the drug that can reverse an overdose.

“What I’ve seen here is nothing short of amazing,” Edgartown Police Chief David Rossi said after the meeting.

As Ms. Todd put it, “It’s really about showing up, keeping the conversation going, and doing your part to be supportive at this point.”

For local information, email breakthesilencemv@gmail.com or visit Learn To Cope’s website at learn2cope.org.