Opioid Vigil Offers Gifts of Healing and Remembrance

Amy Mevorach
Issue Date: 
November, 2018
Article Body: 

The First Congregational Church of Natick, SOAR, Natick Together for Youth and several other organizations continue to be active in an advocacy to sustain awareness among the community that we are still collectively dealing with the challenges of being overly dosed with opium.
The FCC hosts an annual vigil of remembrance, this year on December 16 at 7 PM. People who have lost family members or friends share their stories. Anyone is welcome to share a testimony. “It is a powerful event,” said Sarallyn Keller, Director of Faith and Formation at the FCC. “Support is important for the person addicted and also for their caregivers. The vigil is a place where they can be open, acknowledging that we are going through a painful thing. There was a great deal of stigma, and parents were thinking they had failed their child. No, you didn’t fail, the system has failed us.” The vigil is part of a new system designed to support healing, recovery, and connection.
“Connection has such a positive effect on issues facing youth,” said Christine Guthery, President of SPARK Kindness. As part of their workshop series this fall on the Power of Connection, SPARK presented a forum on October 24 called Addressing the Opioid Epidemic as a Community, at the Community Senior Center, to discuss efforts in Natick to reduce and prevent opioid addiction. First responders shared their experience. “I consider a lot of people first responders,” said Guthery. “The police, EMT’s, fire fighters, SOAR Natick, Katie Sugarman, the Board of Health, parents, educators. They care deeply.” One of SPARK’s priorities is to support people who are supporting people in crisis. “We show them it’s not just up to them. There’s still an idea that it happens over there or to someone else. It doesn’t get out to the public. We need to hear the stories and make the partnership they need from the community.”
On November 27, the FCC will sponsor a talk with pharmacist Jake Nichols. In recovery himself, Nichols will share the experience and insight he has gained while helping people in recovery. The church also hosted a Narcan training with Katie Sugarman, Prevention and Outreach Manager for the Town of Natick. Keller participated in the training and learned how to administer this intervention for opium overdoses. The FCC now has Narcan available.
A display of flags called The Purple Flags Project, cosponsored by SOAR Natick and The Journey, a bereavement group that grew out of SOAR, were placed on the lawn at the FCC in August and moved to the Natick High School in September. The number on the sign represented 1847 lives lost to opium overdoses in 2017, and was updated to 2049 to reflect additional deaths since its posting.
At an all-school assembly on September 17, Cory Palazzi, an addict in recovery present with his parents, shared his story and a video. Students, faculty, staff and parents then placed the flags outside on the lawn. Ellen Lasri, a member of SOAR Natick, described the event as “very moving.”
A student group at Natick High School, Natick Above the Influence (NATI) signed pledges to abstain from opioid use. The group has baked and distributed cookies at previous vigils, as tangible gifts to show that they care.