Reading’s board of selectmen Tuesday said that now may be the time for the town to revisit its efforts to address substance abuse in the community.
“A few years ago [we] began to undertake efforts to combat the scourge of substance abuse,” said Selectman Ben Tafoya. “This might be a time when we need to reinvigorate [them].”
Tafoya’s comments follow a span during which two Reading residents were gunned down in eight days as the result of disputes that investigators believe may have been drug related.
On Monday, Aug. 15, a gunman, allegedly John Burke, 25, of Revere, shot and killed Joe Ronan, 22, in his 3 Lawrence Road home. On Monday, Aug. 22 an as-yet unidentified gunman shot Christopher Fischer, 33, of Reading while he was in a car in Lawrence.
“Tragedy happens all the time,” said Chairwoman Camille Anthony. “We seem to have just been really hitting a lot of it.”
The town previously responded to the issue of drug use in the community by securing a 2007 grant to found the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse. The coalition describes its mission as “to promote a healthy community environment [and] to address our problem that a significant number of youth in Reading, MA use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.”
Members of the board of selectmen said Tuesday that RCASA enjoyed energetic participation in its first years, but has since seen attendance at meetings trail off. Some meetings, said Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner, have drawn fewer than ten audience members.
“What that says to me is that the community doesn’t believe it has a problem,” Hechenbleikner said. “They can’t still think that.”
The coalition’s next annual meeting, Hechenbleikner said, will be held on Sept. 29, and he expects the town’s recent losses to shape the agenda.
“We hope people come out,” he said.