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Webinars aim to help parents, teachers address opioid epidemic


  • CNS illustration/Michael Swan, Catholic Register
  • The Archdiocese of Boston Opioid Task Force is offering a four-week series of live, interactive webinars designed to help Catholic school parents and teachers understand and respond to the opioid crisis in their communities. (CNS file photo/Bryan Woolston, Reuters)

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BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese of Boston's Opioid Task Force is offering a series of four free webinars specifically geared towards Catholic school parents, guardians, and teachers and designed to help them formulate their response to the opioid epidemic.

The webinars, which are being held on four consecutive Thursdays, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. starting on Sept. 21, will focus on both providing education on opioid misuse as well as offering advice on how to recognize and address addiction in a child.

A different expert, or experts, will present each webinar. Held live, viewers will be able to ask questions of the presenters, who will answer them during the session.

"We're hoping that the questions parents and other viewers ask would be ones that a lot of people would have," said Doreen Reardon, who handles Training and Publications at the archdiocese's Office of Risk Management.

The webinar is a first for the Opioid Task Force, which was started in 2016 by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley in response to the growing opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. Co-chaired by Deacon James Greer, director of the archdiocese's Healthcare Ministry, and Joseph McEnness, director of the Office of Risk Management, the task force is meant to identify and develop pastoral support programs for parishes and schools in the archdiocese, and since its creation has held five in-person training sessions for parish and school staff and volunteers.

The goal of the webinars, said Reardon speaking to The Pilot Sept. 18, is "to try to present a response to (the opioid epidemic) -- things that parents can do, things that teachers can do, signs to look out for."

While organizers hope to have as many live viewers as possible, each webinar will be archived and made available to view on a number of websites for later viewing, including the Office of Risk Management website, www.rcabrisk.org, and the Opioid Task Force website, www.MassCatholicOTF.org.

"We're hoping the series is very relevant to people," said Reardon.

To view and participate in the webinars as they are being held live, register at www.MassCatholicOTF.org.

The following is the list and description of each webinar session, as provided by the Opioid Task Force website:

-- Sept. 21 -- Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan

"Responding to the Opioid Crisis" -- District Attorney Ryan will provide an overview of the origins of the crisis, the scope of the problem in Massachusetts, and lessons learned from the recovery community. DA Ryan will also discuss the latest research regarding childhood trauma as a precursor to opioid misuse.

-- Sept. 28 -- John Burress, MD, MPH, FACOEM and Barbara Herbert, MD DFASAM, members of the Massachusetts Medical Society's Opioid Task Force.

"The Opioid Crisis and the Medical Profession: What Parents Need to Know" -- How can we mitigate the risks of opioid misuse for children? What are the telltale signs of opioid addiction in youth, and when should a parent/guardian seek help? How can parents/guardians best advocate for their children when physicians want to prescribe opioids? Dr. Burress and Dr. Herbert will address these questions and more.

-- Oct. 5 -- Deacon Jim Greer, MAPT, CT, Office of Chaplaincy Programs

"The Loss Associated with Substance Abuse" -- The death of a loved one is always devastating, but when that loss is the result of an overdose, there can be emotions that bring unique challenges in addition to the typical symptoms of grief. Deacon Greer will provide guidance on responding to an addiction-related loss of a schoolmate, friend, relative or family member.

-- Oct. 12 -- Kristan Bagley-Jones, LICSW, program director of the Children's Wellness Initiative at Franciscan Children's Hospital.

"Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents" -- 20 percent of youth in the U.S. have a mental illness. How do you recognize the signs? How do you get professional help to understand whether a child is struggling with normal developmental issues or has a more serious mental health problem? Mental illness is treatable; the earlier the intervention, the better the prognosis. Untreated, it can lead to significant mental health conditions and risky behaviors, including suicidal thoughts and actions.

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