WILMINGTON — At a meeting on Oct. 9, the Board of Selectmen heard a presentation from Police Chief Michael Begonis and Health and Recovery Coordinator Samantha Reif on substance abuse initiatives in town.
Reif began working as the town’s Health and Recovery Coordinator, a newly created role, just over a year ago.
“Within one year, Samantha has done an amazing job,” said Begonis.
He stated that Reif has become an “institution” in town, and a resource to both his department and the residents. Begonis continued on to describe the far-reaching effects of the opiate crisis in the area.
“It’s a battle that we have to fight on many different levels,” said Begonis.
Begonis commented upon the evolving impact of drugs on society. He mentioned the legalization of marijuana and the growing popularity of vapes among youth as changes that would have been difficult to account for a few years ago. He also commented upon the enormous, and growing, number of individuals and families grappling with drugs on a personal level.
“When you work with a family, and you see the impact of our efforts in helping that family, we’re getting our money’s worth with this program 100 percent,” said Begonis.
Reif also commented on the far-reaching impact of her job.
“This certainly doesn’t impact just people that are coming into contact with police and fire, it’s… a wide variety of residents of Wilmington,” she said.
Reif described a variety of different trainings she has conducted around town in conjunction with the police department. Half of the Wilmington police department has gone through a 40 hour critical incident training. The training covers a variety of topics, including mental health, substance abuse, and elder issues. Reif, along with Lieutenant Desmond from the Police Department, have undergone an eight-hour intensive mental health training.
Over the summer, Reif stated that she worked with the school department to conduct training for school staff on issues related to marijuana and vaping. There was also a half-day training session for library staff regarding mental health.
The department recently received a PAARI Grant, which will allow the town to hire a part time recovery coach to assist Reif working directly with local residents.
The selectmen praised Begonis, Reif, and the growing substance abuse and mental health initiative being undertaken by the town.
“You’re not only working with the police department, but it’s the other dept. heads that you’re working with,” said Selectman Ed Loud. “If it’s not the veterans it’s the elderly services, it’s everyone, and it affects everyone, so I really, really appreciate that, and thank you both for being here tonight.”
Selectman Michael McCoy commented on the critical need for the program.
“It’s a real wake up call to hear you say that even in a couple of years Samantha may need an assistant,” said McCoy. “It just goes to show the severity.”
Selectman Greg Bendel praised Reif for being “innovative,” and for taking actions including adding an evening shift to her schedule to better reach residents.
“I mentioned a few weeks back at the vigil that I’m really, really proud of the investment our community has made in your new position but I’m more pleased in the investment you’ve made in us,” said Bendel.