About 200 members of the Reading community gathered at the Hawkes Field House Wednesday night to talk about drug use in the community.
The crowd ranged from students in high school to town officials to grandparents. They clustered around white-topped tables and spoke about how drugs are impacting the community and what its root causes might be.
In the interest of not disrupting those conversations, we promised not to attach names to residents' comments.
From Reading's Residents
One woman told a table of three other mothers that she started using drugs at the age of 14 when she was a student at Reading Memorial High School.
Another mother at another table told her conversation partners that she has been engaged with the issue of drug use in Reading for years—since several of her children’s friends overdosed and died before the formation of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse six years ago.
Another mother said that she had heard that the recent introduction of breathalyzers at school dances had lead more youths to use pills that wouldn’t set off the machines.
“Kid’s can get around anything,” she said.
Where are they getting them? Well, new communication methods—particularly social media—said a mother who pined for the days when parent’s would answer the phone and pass it to their children when the caller asked for them.
The groups crystallized their ideas on “bumper stickers” and idea maps that organizers assembled on boards at the front of the room. Their slogans ranged from “smashes the myth of safety in the suburbs” to “cutting lives short” to “correlation between drugs and crime.”
One sticker read, simply, “denial”—an idea that ran through much of the sentiment expressed Wednesday night.
From Reading's Leaders
“One thing that we know for sure is that there are no simple answers and no quick fixes,” said Selectman Steve Goldy.
At the end of the event, Deb Gilburg, the master of ceremonies, told the group that there was no way they were going to solve the issue in two hours.
“If you feel unsettled, good,” she said. “It will keep your attention.”
Leaders from the group will continue the conversation Oct. 6 when the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse holds its annual meeting at the Fine and Performing Arts Center—leading up to a panel discussion on Oct. 18.
But Selectman James Bonazoli asked what comes after that—after the fervor stirred by the deaths of and fades. The energy around the issue of drug use and abuse, he said, needs to endure past the third meeting.
“This is too important for this to just twinkle and die,” he said.