BROCKTON-On the Facebook site, the young addicts share their deepest concerns with one another: How do they stay strong as they feel the urge to use? Will they relapse? Does anyone else have the same symptoms?
The site, which is private for area youths recovering from drug addiction, was launched two months ago and now boasts 200 recovering addicts as members, said Dr. Joseph Shrand.
Shrand, who treats local addicts ages 13 to 17, hopes federal dollars awarded to Brockton recently will help bring trained personnel to the city to help monitor the Facebook site and help local young people fight addiction.
Shrand could not estimate Tuesday what the added personnel would cost, but he said three, eight-hour shifts would be needed to provide 24-hour monitoring of the site. Some could be volunteers; all would need to be trained to help fight youth addictions, Shrand said.
“It’s amazing what (area youth are) saying to each other online,” said Shrand, of the Clean And Sober Teens Living Empowered program at High Point Treatment Center in Brockton. “That’s what sobriety is. This is not something you’re meant to do alone.”
Brockton will be among eight cities statewide to receive a portion of $3.6 million in federal funds to fight prescription drug abuse in youths ages 12 to 25.
The $3.6 million was awarded by the U.S. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration to the DPH Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.
The eight communities selected to participate are Brockton, Boston, Worcester, Springfield, New Bedford, Fall River, Lynn and Quincy. Each city will receive $120,000 annually over the next three years to advance the program.
One of the organizations that could use the funds is the region’s new recovery high school for addicted students.
“Any money that we can get I’m sure would be put to a good use,” said Richard Sproules, a member of the Board of Directors for the North River Collaborative, which runs Independence Academy on Belmont Street. It is the region’s first high school for recovering addicts.
Sproules, a former Brockton police chief, served more than two years in jail for stealing cocaine from the police station to feed his own addiction. He now counsels recovering teen addicts in the region.
For the next several months, as part of the initial phase of the grant, Brockton will assess the problem of prescription drug abuse in the city, Omar Cabrera, spokesman for the state Department of Public Health, wrote in an e-mail to The Enterprise on Tuesday.
The city will then assess how it would conduct prevention intervention strategies, write a strategic plan, and then implement the plan, Cabrera wrote. A fifth and final step will be to assess the effectiveness of the plan, he wrote.
Brockton saw a total of 45 fatal overdoses and 338 non-fatal prescription drug overdoses from 2007 to 2010, according to the state. Some of the deaths were chronicled in The Enterprise’s “Wasted Youth” series, launched five years ago to examine the toll of the epidemic.
Prescription drug abuse is “a huge problem” in the city, said Koren Cappiello, Brockton’s director of community outreach services.
Cappiello, former coordinator for the Mayor’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Coalition, said she has helped run overdose prevention groups in the city.
Two federal studies and another report released Tuesday confirmed what local drug treatment workers and police have been saying: Eastern Massachusetts outpaces much of the nation in heroin-fueled emergency room visits and admissions to state treatment programs for painkiller addictions.
The problem is both in the cities and small towns, reports from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have said.
The rate of emergency room visits in eastern Massachusetts for drugs surpassed that of much larger metropolitan areas in 2011, including New York, Chicago and Detroit, according to a study released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Health Council.
Meanwhile, Shrand said prescription drug abuse prevention starts at the ground level: in the city schools and in neighborhoods to educate city youth about how not to get hooked on prescription drugs.
“We have to go to the kids to reach them,” Shrand said. “Rather than saying ‘We’re going to be putting on an event, we hope you come to us.’”