We are approaching our four year milestone at Community in Crisis.

In that time, we find it incredulous and wonderful, yet also frightening and daunting, how the landscape of tackling this opioid epidemic has changed. We have witnessed positive change, where prescribers are now being required to write prescriptions responsibly and with control, where families and individuals are stepping out of the shadows of stigma and shame to ask for help, where communities are mobilizing and uniting to fight this disease, and where there is at last an acknowledgement among lawmakers of the gravity of the epidemic and a promise of funding and resources to save our next generation. But there’s also despair as we have watched the number of those addicted grow, where we read about the increase in overdose deaths in our own towns, and where we learn of more lethal drugs seeping into our communities and robbing us of our loved ones – our children, siblings, parents and friends.

The many volunteers at Community in Crisis dream of environmental change, when an individual can say, “I have a substance use disorder,” without judgment; when family members step forward with their loved one and ask for help and direction as they support their recovery; when substance use disorder is recognized as a disease by our neighbors as well as professionals; when everyone acknowledges that addiction does not discriminate and is not a choice; when individuals with substance use disorder are treated with compassion, dignity and understanding; when insurance companies approve reimbursement for the best course of treatment for the individual; when physicians receive adequate training in addiction medicine; and when the prevalence of overdose deaths will never again be repeated.

In the four years of our existence, we have achieved so much. One of the most remarkable and heartwarming landmarks is to have been a part of a community in unity that has stepped up to the plate and pledged to end this scourge, from law enforcement, to municipal agencies, faith leaders, educators, concerned parents, individuals in recovery, survivor parents and our youth. Without these compassionate and caring champions, none of this would have been possible. As we watch students from local high schools assist with medicine drop off days collecting hundreds of pounds of unused and unwanted prescription pills, and as we walk the neighborhoods alongside girl and boy scouts as they leave informational door hangars on people’s doors warning of the dangers of opioids, and as we witness our young adults planning events and fundraisers to raise awareness and funds to fight this epidemic, we are particularly thankful for our youth. They are saving their own, unwilling to lose one more friend to drug overdoses.

It brings Gandhi’s quote to mind: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”