A portion of Wednesday's Substance Abuse Night at Braintree Town Hall was dedicated to showing videos of parents and students talking about the downfalls of drug and alcohol abuse and how to avoid them.
The videos, produced by Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey and paid for with money seized from drug dealers, are available to schools and other organizations. Their message demonstrates a cornerstone of the work done over the past year and a half by Braintree's Community Partnership on Substance Abuse.
"I believe we've taken some really good, positive steps," Mayor Joseph Sullivan said.
Along with messages from Impact Quincy on this fall's medical marijuana ballot question and Norfolk County Sheriff Michael Bellotti on his department's efforts to provide support and transition services for inmates, Sen. John F. Keenan updated the crowd on his recently-passed prescription drug legislation.
One of the law's most significant accomplishments, Keenan said, is mandating the use of an existing prescription database by prescribers. This will help stop "doctor shopping" and other forms of abuse.
"It's not like cocaine, marijuana or heroin," Keenan said. Drugs like Oxycontin "get to people who abuse them through prescriptions."
The bill also banned bath salts, a dangerous stimulant, and set up protections for people who call 911 for drug overdoses and are afraid of prosecution for drug possession.
Adding a personal touch to the awareness night were two young people affiliated with the Gavin Foundation, a non-profit that offers community- based substance abuse education, prevention and treatment.
Patrick Nesius, a Newburyport native, grew up in a good home, did well in school and played sports. But by the time he was 14 years old, he'd tried prescription drugs, marijuana and alcohol, and by senior year in high school was using heroin every day.
"There was no compassion or help given," Nesius said.
He ended up in jail in Essex County and then recovery. He has been sober for three years now, and regularly shares his story with Massachusetts students.
Kerry Brennan has also been talking about substance abuse, telling young people how she became an addict and pulled herself out. Today she is nearly seven years sober, and married with daughters.
Her life in high school was also bright, until Brennan, suffering heavily from peer pressure, started drinking and smoking weed daily, eventually turning to heroin. She was an all-scholastic ice hockey player and received college scholarships for that sport and lacrosse. Years later, several of her best friends had died of substance abuse and her post-high school dreams were lost.
"Drugs literally ripped everything from my life," Brennan said.