Mass Innovations, From the Beacon, April 2015

North Reading’s “Community Impact Team” was created three years ago to combat opioid abuse. It has evolved into a far-reaching social services program, ranging from discouraging bullying to helping parents understand the state’s social host liability law.

The program, which relies on volunteers and draws on data from the town and other levels of government, was initiated not long after Michael Murphy became the police chief in early 2012.

As he became familiar with the town, he said, “I saw that everyone was working toward a lot of the same goals, but in their own ways, independently.”

The original members of the Community Impact Team, in addition to Murphy, were the fire chief, the school superintendent, the parks and recreation director, the youth services director and the board of selectmen chair. A representative from the Elder Services Department was added later.

In addition to its board of directors, the Community Impact Team is organized into four groups, each with a distinct focus: social services; public safety; K-12 programs; and youth substance-abuse prevention.

Under K-12, for example, one project is titled “Healthy Relationships.” Working with the district attorney’s office, the Community Impact Team facilitated a presentation on preventing dating violence.

Another project in the K-12 category, “Social Media for Parents,” has 10th-graders creating a website with videos advising parents to be careful downloading apps from social media sites.

One program involved a machine that mimics the effect of alcohol consumption on driving. Students sat in front of a steering wheel and a video screen designed to simulate increasing stages of inebriation.

Murphy and other team members also gave a presentation at the town’s senior center about possible scams. One ruse that police were on the lookout for involved people calling up seniors and claiming to be the person’s grandchild and in desperate need. By warning seniors about the scam – and collaborating with banks and wire-transfer companies such as Western Union – the risk of victimization has been reduced, Murphy said.

North Reading police organize an annual “National Night Out,” designed to educate people about public safety. The event includes various demonstrations, such as the training of the department’s K-9 unit.

For more information, contact Michael Murphy at (978) 664-3131.

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