In April of 2021, the office of Malden Mayor Gary Christenson announced the creation of an Opioid Task Force to tackle the ongoing opioid epidemic in Malden. The task force, lead by Christenson, also includes Police Chief Kevin Molis, Fire Chief William Sullivan, Malden’s Recovery Resource Specialist Paul Hammersley, City Councilor Barbara Murphy, Malden Overcoming Addiction (MOA) Board Member Dana Brown, School Committee Member Adam Weldai, Data Specialist for the Malden Police Department David Richie and Gerry Whetstone, the Pastor at the Malden First Church of the Nazarene and Director of the Malden Warming Center.
As Malden’s Fire Chief, and a resident of Malden, Sullivan shared the “high level of concern expressed by those in the community” who have noticed the incline in opioid related drug overdoses within the city. On the frontlines of this “epidemic within a pandemic” are the members of the Malden Fire Department. As emergency first responders the members of the fire department are in positions to deliver life-saving aid to overdose patients, and will also be able to collect and provide “important data that can assist the task force with focusing [their efforts].”
When dealing with addiction the first step in recovery is to admit that there is a problem, a courageous step for an addict. Sullivan described Malden as a “closely knit” community that has “displayed the courage to admit there is a problem.” Through the creation of this task force Sullivan was able to notice a “commitment to have a positive impact on a very serious problem.” Despite emergency services already being focused and committed to meeting the increased demands brought on to them by COVID-19, they were still able to “regroup and come together to respond to the opioid crisis as well.”
“Every day the circle of support expands” explained Sullivan. Christenson took the first step and brought together the leaders of the community; faith based organization, board members of MOA, representatives of our government, and public education officials, already in positions to “mount an effective operation to address this crisis.” People within the community have stepped up and volunteered their services as recovery coaches. Sullivan adds that “as a community [Malden is] going to have to adopt the long-term concept of what true recovery requires and remain vigilant.”