BOS looking at mandatory drug training for coaches

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Selectman Bob Burr called on his fellow board members to consider a mandatory substance abuse training session for youth sports coaches prior to each season in an effort to curb the epidemic of opiate addiction.

Burr’s suggestion came Tuesday night after both Police Chief Ken Berkowitz and Fire Chief Charlie Doody reaffirmed the message they had shared in an op-ed piece published in the Canton Citizen last week and which also appears on the town website.

Both chiefs said they continue to be alarmed by the number of heroin overdoses in Canton and across the south shore. According to the district attorney’s office, from February to May, there were 43 fatal overdoses in Norfolk County, ranging from a high of 13 in Quincy to five in Stoughton and two in Canton. One fatality in town was a young man who Burr had coached in youth baseball.

Berkowitz mentioned another alarming statistic: In the past six months, Canton police officers, all trained in the use of the opiate reversal drug Narcan, have saved the lives of seven heroin overdose victims. He said he was so alarmed at the latest overdose cases a few weeks ago, including one fatality, that he went on social media to alert residents of a potent batch of heroin being sold in the area.

Selectmen agreed with Berkowitz and Doody that the Canton community has to know of the danger. Burr said that regardless of what the schools are doing, selectmen should take steps to educate young athletes because some of the addiction to opiates comes in the form of prescription drugs from sports injuries. Burr said he would like to offer a substance abuse seminar for all youth sports coaches — and optional for parents — beginning this fall and extending into the winter and spring sports seasons. Down the road, he would consider a mandatory session for all representatives of adult sports teams using Canton fields.

Selectmen said they would review Burr’s suggestion at a future meeting and consider it as a condition for teams applying for field use under the Parks and Recreation Department.

“What can the BOS do?” asked Burr. “Kids use our fields every season. I would like to see a pre-drug information night before the season and mandatory for the coaches.”

“I like the idea,” Berkowitz said. “Coaches know how to talk to kids and coaches can make a big impression. We need to have a progression from youth sports up to the high school.”

Both chiefs agreed that they need more residents to help out with volunteer efforts. “We need more boots on the ground. We need people willing to join the fight,” said Berkowitz, who added that the problem is not one of funding or law enforcement, but rather one of education and a need for more proactive measures.

Berkowitz said overdose victims have told him they started experimenting with marijuana at a young age and progressed to heroin, which is relatively inexpensive and easily obtainable. Berkowitz said 85 to 90 percent of petty crime in Canton (thefts and burglaries) can be attributed to drug addiction and the need to “buy the next fix …

See the July 2 edition of the Canton Citizen for more highlights from the recent selectmen’s meeting. Click here to order your subscription today.

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