A newly created community-based group is building bridges from people with addictions to programs that can help.
Keene Hates Heroin was established on August 6, in response to growing concerns among community members about the prevention and treatment facilitates the area offers to people with heroin and other drug addictions. The goal of Keene Hates Heroin is to promote awareness in the community and find help for addicts who cannot do it alone.
Co-founder of Keene Hates Heroin Kate Pence said, “I’ve always wanted to help addicts in one way or another because my parents were addicts. A lot of people think that all addicts are the same and that none of them can change. I know that all addicts are different. Some of them want help, but they just don’t know how to get it.”
Keene Hates Heroin meets at the Colony Mill on West Street in the old food court to voice opinions, plan events and “clean-ups” of nearby parks for needles and to provide help for addicts. The organization has close to ten members who actively attend meetings, but their Facebook page currently has 1,056 followers.
KSC first-year and volunteer for Keene Hate Heroin Natassia Diffendale, who has been clean and sober for over five years now, commented on why she became involved in the organization,
“Heroin is what brought me to my knees, so I know the struggles when it comes to using heroin, trying to get clean off of heroin with withdrawals and detoxes and how it is being in early recovery and starting a new life,” Diffendale said.
Diffendale commented on the stigma that addicts and recovering addicts face in the community.
“The way that I look at it is I want to raise awareness that we’re not the bums under the bridge, we’re not the old men that drink out of paper bags, we’re not the people breaking into houses or anything,” Diffendale said, “We’re normal people, we’re college students, we’re lawyers, doctors, regular people who made a mistake or two.”
Co-founder of Keene Hates Heroin Dave Pence commented on the growing support of the organization through social media. “We try to get the community involved as much as we can, that way they can have a voice involved so it makes it easier for them to do something. We started out as two groups and then combined them. Once we started holding events, we went from a couple hundred to over a thousand followers. Some days it’s hard to keep up with,” Pence said.
He continued, “I guess our biggest goal is to have every resource for addicts in one place, whether it’s after-care, whether it’s getting them into rehab, whether it’s calling someone to dispose of medication or needles. We want everything in one place.”
Katie commented about the organization’s involvement with the community in raising awareness, “We just did a booth at Pumpkinfest to help raise money. It wasn’t as much as we expected, but we did pretty good. We basically had information for what little help addicts have in the area. We also had information about addiction overall,” Katie said.
Both co-founders said that in Keene and the surrounding areas, finding help for addiction is not as simple as one may think.
“There are mostly only after-care facilitates in the area. There are small rehab care facilities. They’re opening a few more in Cheshire county to make it easier for people to get in. Other than that, it’s mostly after-care services around here and counseling. Not a whole lot in this area. It can be improved a lot. Keene is actually working on it right now, getting more rehabs opened up and restricting the guidelines so they don’t close down rehab centers that are small,” Dave said.
Dave also mentioned how Keene Hates Heroin was established in the community.
“We went in front of city council and we decided to talk to the chief of police about the heroin problem in this area. It seemed that the city wasn’t paying much attention to it. It seemed like they were kind of ignoring it. When the public came in front of them, they didn’t have much choice. The public was actually saying what are you going to do about this? We took the initiative to offer to help to clean up the parks and do whatever we can to help addicts. If you ask to get help, they have to do whatever they can to help,” Dave said.
Keene Hates Heroin is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization, which would give them the ability to receive grants and funds for cleaning supplies and providing more rehab and recovery facilitates for addicts.
According to Dave, Keene Hates Heroin has teamed-up with the mayor to create a “drug-committee” to try to do something immediately about the heroin and other drug problems the city of Keene currently faces while waiting for funding from the state.
Dave and Katie are prime candidates to run such an organization due to their encounters with heroin and other drug addiction.
“Ten years ago, I was a heroin addict and couldn’t get any help. The only help they could give you back then was ]to] put you in jail. That’s what they’ve been doing for the past twenty years,” Dave said.
Dave continued about his previous addiction,
“I lost my kids to foster care twelve or thirteen years ago. I got clean and got them back. I’m disabled and raising my grandson because his parents were drug addicts and they’re not in his life. The father hasn’t been seen in over a year now. I try to have a different approach on life. I have to because I have kids,” Dave said.
Although this is Dave’s third time in recovery for heroin, he said that, as a survivor of addiction, he can help make an impact on other people’s lives and does whatever he can to find help for those in need.
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