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Mayor, city confront opioid epidemic at the street level

Community leaders and Revere residents gathered at the high school to discuss the opioid crisis. “It’s an important issue my office is trying to tackle,” Mayor Brian Arrigo said.

That is why his office created the Substance Use Disorder Initiatives (SUDI) office last year. SUDI’s goal is to support those most affected by the issue through policy and systems change. This includes strategies that meet all aspects of the continuum of care model (i.e., prevention, intervention and recovery).

“There are still some people that don’t understand why we need that office,” Arrigo said. “At the end of the day, that office is [about] saving lives.”

Last year, Revere became one of the only cities in the Commonwealth to open up an office dedicated to addressing the issue of heroin and opioid addiction.

SUDI Grant Assessment Coordinator Julia Newhall said one of the most important things the office does is meet people where they are. “The goal is not always abstinence or recovery,” she said. “The goal is to keep them alive.”

Newhall stated that while she hopes SUDI can help all who will eventually get clean, the first step is to make sure they have someone they can turn to and trust to get help. The office can provide support to people to get the services they need, like finding a detox center or by supplying them with Narcan – which has been saving so many lives.

“It’s a complicated issue,” she said. “It’s complex but we have to continue to bring awareness to it.”

Ward Four Councillor Patrick Keefe wondered if someone from the office could meet with the various little leagues in the town. “Maybe we could have some preseason conversations about these issues and substance abuse,” he asked.

Newhall thought it was a great idea. “They would be able to go and talk to the youth and provide an engaging conversation, too,” she said about the staff.

The work of the SUDI office and its outreach team last year directly saved an estimated 87 lives through use of Narcan, and indirectly impacted many more lives through helping connect residents with treatment and recovery programs.

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