Worcester Health Commissioner Addresses Becker Nursing Students

Published on Friday, September 29th, 2017

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The number of drug overdoses in Worcester is startling. Three people overdose here every day, according to one statistic. However, the city’s Health and Human Services Commissioner Dr. Matilde Castiel says early intervention and compassion can help reverse that trend.

“Remember, [drug addicts] were once kids too,” Castiel told a group of School of Nursing and Behavioral Sciences undergraduate students during a presentation at Becker’s Leicester Campus. “Addiction is a disease that begins at childhood. You will see them when the patients are older but it all started when they were children.”

In her lecture, Castiel described how childhood trauma, such as physical and sexual abuse, the use of drugs and alcohol at an early age and genetics could lead to drug addiction. Using slides and data charts, she explained why a child born to a drug addicted mom, or dad, has a 50 percent chance of inheriting an addiction gene and why an abused child is more predisposed to drug addiction. Therefore, Castiel said it is important that healthcare and treatment providers begin to think about ways to intervene at a younger age. To that end, Worcester launched a pilot program at some elementary schools where experts, based on a student’s home life and history, try to identify children in need of early intervention.

“This room right here is where our healthcare advocates are being shaped,” she said. “You’ll be working with these patients and compassion goes a long way to treating that person. You guys can help with fight against addiction.”

To illustrate the devastating human toll of drug addiction, Castiel brought along a recovering drug addict to share her story. Nicole Bell, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, spoke candidly about how being abused by her uncle at the age of nine led to years of drug abuse and addiction, prostitution and suicide attempts. Castiel’s presentation, which was part of National Recovery month, included a lesson on how to recognize and treat an overdose. More than 60 students filled the Fuller Campus Center’s Conference Room to hear her speak.

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