State Representative David Robertson discusses substance abuse

State Representative David Robertson, far left, discusses substance abuse with TMHS students and the Board of Health. (Heather Burns photo)

TEWKSBURY — On Thursday, May 16, 2019, the Tewksbury Board of Health met for their monthly meeting. Stu­dents from the Tewksbury Memorial High School were invited to present their thoughts on the topic of substance abuse and ad­diction among teens and young adults to the Board of Health members. Also in attendance for this discussion with the students was State Representative David Robertson.

Maria Ruggiero, Pro­gram Director for the Tewks­bury Police Department’s Sub­stance Abuse Prevention Collaborative, accompanied the TMHS students to the meeting.

The TMHS students in attendance to present their thoughts with the board and State Rep. Robertson were freshmen Lyndsey Pettengill, Juliana Ricci, Lily Gigante, and Anisha Lacerda.

Each student pulled no punches when discussing the substance abuse problem within the teen and young adult community, and were all in agreement that intervention needs to start at a much younger age in order to be effective.

Frank discussion took place addressing the influence social media can have on this issue, both posi­tive and negative.

Ricci said, “Drinking al­cohol is not a right of passage,” and “struggling should not be popularized.”

Pettengill stated, “Media needs to change.”

The problems of mental health and addiction were also addressed.

Ruggierio pointed out “mental health and substance abuse are often tightly wound together.”

Lacerda added to the discussion of mental health and substance abuse by stating, “Drinking helps in the moment, but does more damage in the long run.”

“You don’t like to struggle,” stated Gigante on the subject of teens posting substance abuse and mental health problems on social media.

State Rep. Robertson discussed at length different ways to solve these problems among the youth of the community with the students and Board of Health members.

Robertson also suggested that he would like to see legislation put through for substance abusers to get help and treatment rather than prison time.

The Tewksbury Cares pro­gram was created to promote education, in­crease awareness and provide re­sources to the Tewksbury community on the issue of substance abuse.

Board of Health Chair Raymond Barry suggested “the Tewksbury Cares Pro­gram needs to be re-energized, and needs someone from the high school population to be a member on the Tewksbury Cares Board of Directors.”

All of the board members and Rep. Robertson were in agreement that the young women representing the student body from TMHS all have leadership qualities and the information and ideas that they shared at the meeting had merit, and would be useful in resolving this ongoing problem.

The board also continued discussion on revising Board of Health fees, including changing the penalty for late fees, and addressing repeat offenders of repeat violations.

The board members also discussed with Rep. Robert­son ideas to provide more funding for inspection budget needs.

The Tewksbury Board of Health in partnership with the Tewksbury Police De­part­ment announced the annual Bicycle Rodeo and Health Fair will take place on Sunday, June 9, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tewks­bury Memorial High School. This event is held to promote good health and bike riding safety, and is free and open to all Tewksbury families.

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