Mother's mission to end addiction stigma continues Saturday in Griswold

Griswold — Kathleen Dufficy has thought about her son Matthew Barrett every day since he died on Nov. 23, 2015, of injuries he suffered in a drug-related car crash.

Though Barrett, 32, lost his life as a result of an addiction he'd struggled with for 12 years, Dufficy is passionate in her belief that there is hope for others. She formed a group called Matt's Mission, which is seeking nonprofit status and on Saturday is staging its second major public event. Dufficy expects the event to be bigger than the first one, which took place in 2016.

Dufficy said anyone who is touched by addiction or interested in learning more is invited to the event.

John Lally, another grieving parent who formed a group called Today I Matter, will be displaying his traveling poster memorial of more than 120 young people who have died. A remembrance quilt assembled of squares provided by parents of Connecticut overdose victims will be on display.

At least four people in recovery are expected to address the gathering.

Speeches will begin at 11 a.m., Dufficy said, and will be emceed by Jack Malone, executive director of the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

A representative of Community Speaks Out, a Groton-based nonprofit working to help those who are addicted and their families, is expected to address the gathering.

Lt. Matthew Solak from the Willimantic Police Department will talk about the new police-assisted recovery program called HOPE, short for Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education Initiative.

Also scheduled to attend are representatives from several other groups focused on addiction.

"It should be a nice day, and hopefully we can help someone," Dufficy said Friday in a phone interview.

She wants to help erase the stigma of addiction and is encouraged by the growing trend of providing access to treatment rather than arresting those who are struggling. Her son was ashamed of his disease and was aware that people were ridiculing him.

"He heard those whispers behind his back, and that made it hard for him to accept treatment," Dufficy said. "The majority of people suffering from addiction are all kind and good and loving people. We need to withhold our judgment. They suffer from a disease and we need to help them and not hurt them and embarrass them."

Barrett did undergo some treatment but relapsed, an occurrence that is not unusual. Medical tests indicated he had ingested methadone, heroin and benzodiazepines before the crash.

In 2017, more than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of deaths were caused by opioids, with the sharpest increase related to fentanyl and synthetic drugs like it.

k.florin@theday.com

If You Go

What: Matt's Mission

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Veterans Park in Jewett City

More info: More than 20 treatment-related groups will be on hand to provide information. There will be food, a basket raffle, children's activities and music.

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