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By Anne O’Connor

aoconnor@nashoba valleyvoice.com

If you don’t know someone who has been touched by drug addiction, you probably know someone who does.

A group of North Middlesex parents are attempting to raise awareness of drug addiction and to educate schoolchildren about the dangers. They believe that part of the solution is being able to openly discuss the problem.

They all have or had children in the North Middlesex Regional School District and have one or more family members who are addicts. Two have sons who overdosed and died.

“When people don’t open their mouths, then they die,” said Gail Derboghosian, who will soon place a plaque memorializing her son on a bridge in Townsend.

She is the treasurer of NM Cares, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting drug addiction. The group just received its official nonprofit designation, with the application fee donated by pharmacist Tracie Ezzio, owner of Pepperell Family Pharmacy.

“We had a hard time getting going because of denial,” said Mary Morgan, secretary of NM Cares. Like so many, she, too, has immediate family members affected by substance abuse.

NM Cares received a grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation to do an educational programs that includes fifth-grade students. President Therese LaRose wrote the grant.

LaRose has seen the problem grow from a health care perspective over the last 10 years. She also has a family member affected.

The group has received plenty of community support. Pepperell is responsible for administering the $1,000 grant from the community foundation. Town Administrator Mark Andrews has been a great help, Morgan said.

The women met with a community outreach group that includes Pepperell police, schools and groups from other towns. The outreach group wants to create a monthly drop-in center where addicts and families can get information and find out where to go for help, Morgan said.

“It’s okay to talk,” she said.

Support from individuals in the North Middlesex community has already begun.

Southern New Hampshire University student and Townsend native Zack Ryan is raising funds on Kickstarter to produce an album. A percentage of funds will go to NM Cares.

Thanks to restaurateur Pam Mariano, NM Cares has already held one meeting at the Townsend Ridge Country Club. Reaching out through her social media presence, Mariano had 160 people at the event.

NM Cares is welcome to use the club hall once a month, free of charge, Morgan said.

The group wants and needs even more community involvement. They are looking for volunteers to help with events and for new members to join. There is no membership fee.

The advocates for fighting the stigma attached to drug addiction just want people to feel free to talk about the challenging situation.

Lola Holden, whose son died in 2008, knows the importance of communicating.

Every addict is someone’s child, she said. “They’re good people.”

“I’m still Michael’s voice until I take my last breath,” she said.

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