FRAMINGHAM – Christopher Thomas ‘CT’ Grynkewicz excelled in school and in sports. But at the age of 33, the Framingham-native died from his battle with opioids and addiction, after several stints in jail
“I would like you all to take away from today’s vigil,” said Lynne Johnson Grynkewicz, Saturday night at the first major event held by the new organization Framingham FORCE. The current opioid war … is unprecedented in our country’s history. It is a progressive disease, and we mustn’t remain silent or passive in addressing its origin, its insidious nature, its treatment, or its danger, as we lose precious lives daily.”
“We are all here to offer compassion , and give support to our community,” said FORCE co-founder Joan Grzywna, to a crowd of more than 75 individuals individuals inside Scott Hall at First Parish Church in Framingham Saturday evening.
The organization’s goal is to be a force to bring people together and offers hope, said Grzywna.
Both founders have a child, who had had issues with addiction.
“This disease is a lifelong struggle,” said Grzywna.
Latest statistics, show that drug overdoses are the leading cause of death in adults under age 55, said Grzywna.
“My heart hurts for all the sadness and tragedy in the room, And my heart was full when I looked around and saw elected and appointed officials, friends, colleagues, community members and strangers who took time out of their busy schedules to offer support to those of us that need it the most,” said FORCE co-founder Cathy Miles, of Framingham.
In attendance Saturday night, along with those touched by opioid use, were Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay, State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis, the chair of the Framingham City Council Dennis Giombetti, Susan Nichols from Sen. President Karen Spilka’s office, Kelly McFall from Mayor Yvonne Spicer’s office, School Committee Chair Adam Freudberg, at-large City Councilors George King and Cheryl Tully Stoll, District 3 City Councilor Adam Steiner, District 4 City Councilor Michael Cannon, and District 1 School Committee member Beverly Hugo.
After the event inside Scott Hall, everyone took purple flags and planted them on the Framingham Centre Common.
More than 2,000 purple flags were planted to represent the more than 2,000 people in Massachusetts who have died from an opioid-related death.
Several in attendance placed personalized grey flags with messages for loved ones, who lost the battle with opioids.
“I was overwhelmed by the people who showed up to offer support. I am grateful to my co-founder, Joan Grzywna and my committee who helped me with the planning and execution of this event. The visual display of the purple flags will serve as a reminder of those lives lost and the holes they have,” said Framingham FORCE co-founder Cathy Miles.
Before attendees headed outside, they also heard from a MetroWest woman, who lost her son from an overdose.
“It’s not right. It’s not wrong. It’s my story. It’s my experience,” said Katie Truit, about her family’s struggle with addiction and drugs.
She said her son started in high school smoking marijuana and drinking a lot, but as he became an adult he moved into opioids.
Truit said the sad part is that the “stigma around addiction” prevented her from getting the help she and her son needed.
“I had no idea what addiction was like,” she said. “I was not prepared for this life. No one told me that this could possibly happen to me.”
Truit said her kids “had all the love in the world,” so when this “disease started knocking on her door, I was blown away. I had no idea what to do or how to handle it.”
Her son couldn’t handle the addiction to opioids either. He never sought help, and tried to cure himself of the addiction. Matthew died in 2012 of an overdose.
“I think that is one of the saddest things about my son’s story. He tried to battle this battle on his own. When you are battling addiction, you just can’t stop this on your own. I can’t go what I’m going through alone,” Truit said.
“I choose not to live my life with the guilt,” said Truit. “But what I am left with is pure pain.”
Framingham FORCE’s mission is to help people like Truit bringing awareness and compassion surrounding the opioid epidemic, as well as offering support to those in recovery.
The Framingham Board of Health has agreed to be our fiscal agent which will enable the group to apply for funding and grants, said Miles.
Committee members of Framingham Force include Miles, Grzywna, Tania Calder, Mary Kate Feeney, Lynn Johnson Grynkewicz, George King, Esta Montano, Diane Montgomery, and John Stefanini.
Miles said she would like the next event to focus on education and that “words matter.”
Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer did not attend the FORCE event Saturday night, but her office issued this statement “It’s time to take the veil off of opioids and have an honest conversation about what we can do and learn as a community. We need to remove the shame and stigma that has long been associated with drugs and those who struggle with them. A good place to start is taking action and having conversations about mental health and building a healthy community. I commend Framingham Force for shining a light on this challenge by encouraging community conversations and remembering those who have lost their lives to a
substance abuse disorder and their families.”
The Framingham City Council has already begun the work. They issued a proclamation on the matter earlier this fall, submitted by Councilor King.