Bernadette Gleeson, an advocate and educator, will give a presentation at the Keene Family YMCA next month about how to help those in the Monadnock Region struggling with addiction.
It’s the third event of the Y’s Community Impact series, which brings educators, experts and speakers to the center to directly address challenges faced by the community, said Marjorie Droppa, the community impact and development director.
The series started in September with a workshop led by New Futures Kids Count and the N.H. Children’s Trust on how to be an advocate for community causes. That event featured talks by N.H. Sens. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, and Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, and Vt. Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint, D-Brattleboro. In October, motivational speaker Randy Pierce, who went blind at 22 as the result of a neurological disease, spoke at the Keene Family YMCA about his life experiences.
Like the other events in the series, Gleeson’s presentation aims to give residents the tools to tackle a challenge in their community.
“Well, I think that everybody in the community either is dealing with addiction or knows somebody who is. It’s a very real and present issue in our community,” Droppa said. “The Y is deeply embedded in this region, so it makes sense for us to help our region with issues that we’re facing, and the opioid epidemic is one of those.”
The Monadnock Region, like many other areas across New Hampshire and the United States, is grappling with an epidemic of opioid abuse.
Gleeson herself has been in recovery for 11 years and previously worked as director of recovery development for HOPE for NH Recovery. She received a master’s degree in professional communication from Indiana University—Purdue University Fort Wayne and focused her graduate thesis on the research and language of addiction recovery.
Her goal is for addiction and substance use disorder to be treated like any other chronic medical condition, such as cancer or asthma, Gleeson said. Through her presentations and trainings, she aims to shift views of addiction and provide ways people can directly help those going through recovery.
Her philosophy emphasizes supporting people where they are.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s at work, or it’s our faith community, or it’s our educational communities, or it’s when we run into law enforcement,” she said. “No matter where we move in our lives, we have to have people that support us and that help us through this difficult time.”
Her presentation introduces skills for helping others who are struggling, such as what questions to ask and setting boundaries when supporting someone in recovery.
She has spoken in the Monadnock Region before in trainings at W.S. Badger Co. Inc. in Gilsum and the Keene Serenity Center. Gleeson typically speaks at businesses and community events that are part of a person’s “ecosystem” — an access point where they can find support.
She wants people to know that those with substance use disorder are just like anybody else, and that there’s something everyone can do to help. She challenges legislators to ask their constituents to join the effort, as they would during another public crisis like a hurricane or wildfire.
“No matter how much funding comes our way for treatment and recovery, if we don’t change the culture, if we don’t change our ecosystem, if we don’t get people the skills, the tools and the knowledge where we live in our lives, this isn’t going to change,” she said.
Gleeson’s presentation is scheduled for Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Keene Family YMCA at 200 Summit Road. It is free and open to the public, but registration is required. People can register at http://bit.ly/2Ab9NNi. Those in need of childcare during the presentation can contact the Y at 352-6002.