Manchester groups aims to combat the opioid epidemic locally

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MANCHESTER — Manchester mothers are fed up with the opioid epidemic and the devastating impact it has had on many local families.

A little over a month ago, a coalition of citizens banded together to form Fed Up Manchester. The grassroots group aims to increase awareness, provide support, demand restrictions on opioid prescriptions, expand access to effective opioid addiction treatment, and instill hope that recovery is possible.

"We kept hearing about people dying, people overdosing, people needing a place to go, but there's nowhere to go," said Wendy Galbraith, an organizer for Fed Up Manchester. "It just seems that there wasn't a concrete set of resources available. We came together and decided that this was something that was needed in Vermont."

Prompted in part by a rash of overdoses in both Brattleboro and Londonderry this July, the group hopes to break the stigmas associated with opioid addiction.

"Fed Up Manchester is committed to bringing about changes; breaking the stigma," said Galbraith. "Once the stigma is broken people can start talking about it, and even ask for help."

According to the organizers of Fed Up, our area lacks a number of significant tools for recovery including detox programs and long term recovery options.

"When someone needs to detox there's nowhere to go," said Galbraith. "We're trying to promote organizations where there might be a safe place, where people can go and stay until they can get into one of these rehabs; most have a four to six week wait."

Long-term rehabilitation options can make all the difference, according to Galbraith, who asserts that it's more practical to send a patient to one long-term rehabilitation center rather than the multiple shorter programs that many are treated through.

"What we've learned is that long term treatment is needed. Not just detox but step work, going to meetings," said Galbraith. "This is a brain disease, and it needs to be treated as such."

After completing rehabilitation however, the long work of rebuilding one's life begins.

"A lot of them have been to jail or have lost jobs, have gotten financial problems, can't even go back to their families; so when they get out, where are they going to go?" said Galbraith. "That's part of our thought for the long term, that there would be a follow up in assistance for education, housing, and jobs. It's seeing the big picture."

Education on the epidemic can also play a powerful role in prevention, and Fed Up is hoping to provide that to the community as well.

"There's a lot of education and awareness that needs to happen right now, because this is a dangerous problem right now. It is here," said Galbraith. "People are surprised when I talk about the extent of what's going on, and the infiltration of fentanyl mixed in with the heroin, which is causing people to die so quickly and in mass numbers."

The first step for the group is their upcoming Overdose Awareness Day Rally, coinciding with national gatherings demanding that the Federal Government put forth a coordinated response to the opioid epidemic.

"This rally is our attempt to link local families with resources and with each other; providing a support system and giving them hope," said Galbraith. "It's grown from just a candlelight vigil to a huge gathering where people can get information and listen to the legislators talk about what's going on in the state."

The rally, beginning at 6 p.m. on Aug. 31 on the Factory Point Town Green, will feature resource tables, multiple speakers, live music from the Muddy Hollow Band (alongside artist Maxine Linehan and local musician Lisa Ann), as well as the candlelight vigil that started it all.

Organizers have also asked willing participants to bring photos of loved ones that have been lost, or a sign to carry.

"For FedUp Manchester, this rally is just the beginning. It's not just a rally of screaming; we're going to inform, and embrace, and I hope we can make a difference," said Galbraith. "I'm hoping with this rally we can address it in an open manner, and attract the families who are suffering but have no clue what to do or where to go."

Uniting the community is just one step in achieving the plethora of ambitious goals laid out by Fed Up Manchester.

"We are all one accident away from becoming an addict; a lot of addicts start with prescription medicine," said Galbraith. "If it hasn't already affected you through your family or your friends, or even a friend of a friend, it will."

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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