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TOWNSEND — The Townsend Police Department ended their month-long effort of beard growing in support of NM Cares.

“Our message has reached many through the assistance of Nashoba Valley Voice and our Facebook page, but we have lots of work to do in terms of reaching community members and stopping the stigma of prescription drug misuse and drug addiction,” Police Chief Rick Bailey said.

NM Cares is a local non-profit focused on bringing awareness to the public about the risks of addiction and fatalities, due to the misuse of prescription drugs. In addition, NM Cares provides support to those that have been affected by substance abuse.

Gail Newcombe-DerBoghosian and Lauren Macbeth Geanacopulos from NM Cares, both of whom lost sons to opioid addiction, met with the department members Friday and accepted a donation of $790.

Officer Jeff Giles, who organized the effort with the officers, was joined by Bailey and Sgt. Kim Matson to present the donations received on behalf of NM Cares.

Giles expressed that he was pleased with the outcome of the first effort by the Townsend Police Department, “Often community members feel police are there to just arrest people,” Giles said. “We are not, our goal is to help solve community problems and the disease of addiction is affecting many lives — we want to be a positive influence in creating the change needed to stop the loss of lives, hopefully this effort helped spread that message.”

In addition to supporting the efforts of NM Cares, the Townsend Police Department is actively participating in the Northwest Middlesex County Community Outreach Initiative Network (COIN), a collaboration between 10 area police departments — Pepperell, Ashby, Townsend, Groton, Shirley, Ayer, Boxborough, Dunstable, Westford and Littleton — committed to addressing mental health issues and substance abuse disorders in their communities and is a member of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative. These collaborations help with funding recovery coaches and seeking sources for treatment.

Misuse of prescription drugs is a large part of the problem. The latest report from the state shows that prescriptions in Middlesex County are down from 106,900 (5,757,663 doses and 55,566 individuals) to 98,409 (5,315,900 doses and 49,394 individuals). While this is progress in the right direction, communities still need to focus on disposing of unneeded prescriptions and the medical community needs to continually evaluate the need for the prescriptions.

Earlier this year, the department held a Drug Take Back Day to collect and destroy prescription medicine that were not needed and in just a few hours over 4,800 pills were collected.

“It is certainly a difficult time, we need to ensure folks are afforded pain medicine when a need exists, while at the same time putting the right support and monitoring in place to stop the disease of addiction from affecting our community members,” Bailey said.

While the department is actively working with its partners to provide education and support, the help of the community is needed. Bailey explained that the disease of addiction has no boundaries, and everyone needs to be aware of the signs of addiction and provide support and assistance with recovery efforts.

“While we will arrest those that are distributing drugs, we want to encourage those in need of treatment to seek assistance without fear of arrest,” Bailey said. “The disease of addiction has no boundaries and we all have to be aware of the signs and reach out to those in need of support and guide.”

While “No Shave November” has ended, you can still support this effort by sending checks made out to NM Cares to the Townsend Police Department, 70 Brookline Street, Townsend MA 01469.

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