In the first two months of 2015, in the small town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, the local Fire and Rescue Department responded to 28 emergency calls for an overdose. They administered the opiate antidote Narcan and successfully revived the patient in most cases; in two they did not. The story in Falmouth is being mirrored across Massachusetts. New reports show 1000 people died of opiate-related causes in 2014.
Governor Charlie Baker is calling drug addiction a public health emergency, and has created a 16 member task force to combat this growing issue. Baker, along with two others wrote in a recent Boston Globe OpEd, “Fighting back against the opioid crisis helps our families, our businesses, our economy, and our communities. With the help of extensive research, evidence-based treatment, and smart partnerships, we can reverse these trends and save lives.”
Ken Weber, a Falmouth resident and a 2002 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Emerging Leaders Program, has had a long and successful career as a human resource director for a large corporation, as well as a C-level executive for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Throughout those years, he has been a volunteer on the front lines of addiction treatment, working with hundreds of young men seeking help. In 2014, he leveraged his executive education and management skills to take a leap of faith to follow his path of wanting to help others full time by establishing Recovering Champions, a Cape Cod based full service rehabilitation center.
The facility, just opened, offers a continuum of care that provides opportunities for treatment and for transition back into society. Weber, with over 24 years of recovery, understands a comprehensive treatment model is needed to address the physiological impacts of addiction as well as the spiritual, psychological, and social aspects of the disease. There is a need for not just more facilities, but facilities that have plans in place to do it right.
Weber is adamant, “This not going to be a hangout for people to play cards and watch TV. The team has developed a comprehensive curriculum, and our clients will be able to learn about addiction, participate in individual and group counseling, 12 step work, yoga and meditation. The idea is to offer varied ways in which people can work hard and begin their recovery.” In addition, Weber, in partnership with nonprofit organizations, plans to have career training activities for those who want to learn a trade.
“Unfortunately,” Weber says, “the majority of people view addiction as a moral issue. It is disheartening to have members of a community tell you, not in my backyard. People automatically think of the down and out middle-aged guy on the park bench, but the reality is that it is the injured high school athlete whose doctor prescribed pain medication that becomes addicted and moves on to heroin when access to the pain medication is denied.”
Governor Charile Baker backed this up at a recent press briefing indicating that many heroin addicts began their opiate use with pain medications, many legally prescribed.
The problem in Massachusetts is severe. Addiction is chronic, progressive, and if untreated, fatal. Ken Weber and the Recovering Champions team are doing their part to provide that treatment – and save lives. For more information on Recovering Champions, please see www.recoveringchampions.com or call toll free 844.888.5391.
Troy Clarkson, Recovering Champions board member, contributed to this article.