MONSON — On Feb. 26, the Monson Board of Health hosted its second community listening session on how the town should use funding from a recent opioid settlement at First Church of Monson.

The Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General and many other attorneys general have settled lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers for their role in contributing to the epidemic caused by the opioid crisis in the state. At the time, Gov. Maura Healey said the first two settlement payments were expected to reach Massachusetts in spring and summer 2022, followed by annual installments from 2023 to 2038. According to a dashboard created to transparently track each town’s spending of its share of the settlement funds, Monson has received $55,991 for the reporting period of July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023. The dashboard can be found at tinyurl.com/ypjwb3d9.

The Board of Health had the same goals as the first session which took place on Jan. 21, inviting residents to come and talk about how they would like to use the opioid settlement funds in the community. Additionally, people with lived experiences were invited to speak about what services they would like available in the community that would help them in their journey back to sobriety.

Denise Kennedy Buck, the administrative assistant to the Health Department and Board of Health said, “We wanted to keep the discussion the same and have people come and talk. We’re here to listen. The board met at their meeting Feb. 14 and decided they did not want to compile a list for the new group. They wanted to keep it completely the same and did not want to persuade anyone with the list.”

She went on to say, “After this meeting, the board will make a compilation of the suggestions and move forward with planning for making recommendations to the Select Board and then ultimately before the town to vote on.”

Monson resident Karen Nothe-Valley said she enjoyed the listening session and appreciated the Board of Health for providing these opportunities to hear from the community.

“They put the focus on gathering a variety of opinions to generate actionable ideas,” Nothe-Valley said. “I encouraged the board to take everyone’s input and investigate further how we can use the available funds to solve a need in Monson that fits within the allotted amount.”

Nothe-Valley would like to see some action in prevention and education or lifesaving efforts taken. She heard a lot of sentiment expressed by community members and the board that they need to come together as a community to tackle the opioid drug use problem, as it is a problem occurring in all communities. She said she feels that the Board of Health really listened.

Liz Shaw, a Monson resident in long-term recovery who celebrated 11 years sober of heroin at the end of January, attended the first listening session on Jan. 21 because she was curious about what was going on.

“I didn’t realize how much recovery is lacking in the town of Monson,” Shaw said. “I didn’t get sober in Monson. I went out of town and started my recovery process in Franklin County in the Greenfield area where I learned what recovery actually means.”

After attending the first listening session, Shaw said that Monson needs a space and community that people feel safe in or if they’re in crisis they can go, find help and resources. It was also discussed about getting a certified recovery coach employed through the town which she believes would be great as well.

“I’m a little upset with myself that I couldn’t get down there for the second session,” Shaw said. “I wasn’t feeling well and as a person in recovery I have to take care of myself first. They should do another listening session and I want to be there for it. The town is listening and they’re open. Hopefully more people in Monson can get out and share their experiences so others realize that we do have people struggling in town.”

Miasha Lee
+ posts