On a balmy Thursday evening, dozens of members of the Vineyard community gathered at Five Corners in Tisbury to remember Joey Jones, and to raise awareness of an issue that has plagued our tiny Island for many decades.
Joey’s family, friends, coworkers, and many others held signs with his name on them. Joey’s mother, Elizabeth, held a sign that read “Born 1/30/89, Joseph A. Jones, #noshame, overdosed 7/30/18, Tree Top Flyer.” Another sign read “If you need help, please reach out.”
Joey’s father, John, told the Times that people often hide from addiction and pretend it doesn’t exist. He admitted that he did the same thing for some time, up until three days ago, when addiction made an immeasurable impact on his life. “I wasn’t here rallying last week, but now here I am, and I am ashamed,” Jones said.
But Jones said he and his family can no longer hide from this issue, and neither can the rest of the world. “We all know what needs to be done, so let’s get people to think about these things,” Jones said.
The paradigm, according to Jones, has too long been that addicts are outside of society and do not deserve the care and compassion that someone with a dissimilar disease would receive. “These aren’t criminals, these are our children; they are our loved ones that need help,” Jones said.
Instead of turning a blind eye to opioid addiction, Jones said, the community needs to focus on the different elements that perpetuate this epidemic. He did not cast hatred at drug dealers, not even toward the one who may have dealt the fatal dose. He said the issue is of a particular mindset that needs to be reoriented before any significant change is made. “Let us try to help these people, instead of just ignoring the problem,” Jones said. “If we have options, any options at all, why are we still dying?”
Jones said one of the biggest issues is how we are treating people with opioid addictions. “If I am addicted to cigarettes, and I wholeheartedly want to quit, why should I not be allowed to go and buy a nicotine patch?” Jones said. He explained that originally the idea of a methadone clinic would strongly disagree with him, but as he stood at Five Corners, surrounded by people holding his deceased son’s name up for all to see, he quickly had a change of heart.
“This is a disease that we need to treat,” Jones said.
Dennis Redican, owner of Tabor Tree Service, said Joey was one of his most brilliant and enthusiastic workers. “He was the only guy I knew who would bring a book to work,” Redican said. “He could quote the Renaissance masters, and was just such a special kid.”
But Redican didn’t just know Joey through his work in the tree service; he said he got sober with Joey when they were both in Vineyard House (a sober living center on-Island).
Gary Deamaral said that because of one drug dealer, a mother and father will never see their son again. “It’s a disgrace,” Deamaral said. “How many times is it going to take before guys like this who kill people actually go to jail? Something needs to be done, or this guy is going to be out again. He needs to stay in jail.”
The Rev. Leo Christian stood at the corner of the sidewalk and clapped his hands. “Too many young people are taken away from us, and their lives are so precious,” Christian said. “It takes an entire community to really make a change, and I think that is what we are doing here.”
Dolores Borza, the woman who originally decided to take a stand against addiction at Five Corners, said she hopes people can break through the embarrassment or shame of addiction and find hope, when hope is all that remains. She said that casting aspersions or making judgments about people is the wrong move: “The only time you should look down on someone is when you are helping them up.”