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Learn to Cope’s Salem Chapter Celebrates 10th Anniversary at NSMC
4/11/2017
By Matt Roy

Salem, Mass. (April 11, 2017) – The emotion is palpable. “We felt beloved from the minute we arrived at our first meeting,” parent Kathleen McDonald said. “When I look around the room, I feel surrounded by the best of humanity. We are open with each other, and vulnerable; we don’t judge. A meeting is not a sad place, it’s a comfort. There’s a certain joy in being in the struggle of your life with friends.”

For the past decade, parents and family members coping with a loved one addicted to opiates or other drugs have attended a weekly Learn to Cope meeting at North Shore Medical Center (NSMC) Salem Hospital. Started by the mother of an opioid-addicted son, Learn to Cope offers education, resources, peer support and hope to families dealing with addiction and recovery. Members of the group’s Salem chapter, joined by Learn to Cope founder Joanne Peterson, recently came together at NSMC to celebrate the chapter’s 10th anniversary.

Pictured, from left to right: State Sen. Joan Lovely, Learn to Cope Northeast Regional Manager Kathy Day, NSMC’s Director of Community Relations Lori Long, Learn to Cope Founder Joanne Peterson, and Marguerite Roberts, C.N.P., Director of the Family Resource Center at MassGeneral for Children at North Shore Medical Center.

The Salem chapter began with less than a dozen participants in its early months in 2007 and today welcomes over 80 attendees. “We built it, and they came,” Peterson said during her remarks at the March 30 event. She credited NSMC’s Marguerite Roberts and Lori Long, who first witnessed the power of Learn to Cope at a meeting of the group’s original chapter in Stoughton, MA, for persuading her to expand and create a second chapter in Salem.

“Marguerite and Lori traveled to our meeting on the South Shore and they listened, they learned and they felt the compassion and care in that room,” Peterson said. “They left with the idea to bring Learn to Cope to the North Shore.” Since the Salem chapter began meeting in 2007, Learn to Cope has grown to 27 chapters across Massachusetts as well as two chapters in Florida and one in Boise, Idaho. The organization also has over 9,000 members on a private online forum.

“There’s immediate acceptance and trust when you step across the threshold into a Learn to Cope meeting,” said Roberts, C.N.P., Director of the Family Resource Center at MassGeneral for Children at North Shore Medical Center. “We share in sorrows and celebrate joys together. The comment we’ve heard so often over the years is that ‘Learn to Cope saved my child’s life, and it also saved me.’”

Roberts serves on Learn to Cope’s Board of Directors along with Long, NSMC’s Director of Community Relations. “Learn to Cope is by far the largest support group at North Shore Medical Center. Thousands of family members have participated in a meeting over the years, and that’s a direct result of Joanne’s vision,” Long said. “The struggle with opioid addiction in our community is as intense as ever, and Learn to Cope, with its home here at NSMC, will continue to be a vital resource for North Shore families.”

Learn to Cope has become a nationally recognized model for peer support and prevention programming, and Gov. Charlie Baker recently recognized Peterson as a hero in the opioid battle. Meanwhile, state Sen. Joan Lovely of Salem, a member of the Special Senate Committee on Opioid Addiction Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Options, attended Learn to Cope’s anniversary celebration at NSMC and expressed her support for the group’s mission.

“The room in Salem is still full each week, which is not good news in one sense,” Peterson said. “But at least there is a place to go to get educated about addiction and the resources that are available. There’s a place to go to form lifelong friendships, and to feel hope among others who understand.”

Learn more about Learn to Cope. The Salem Chapter currently meets Thursdays, at 7:30 p.m. in the Highland Hall auditorium, 55 Highland Ave., NSMC Salem Hospital. In May, the location of the meeting will change to the Davenport 102A Conference Room at Salem Hospital. To learn more about other programs and groups supporting behavioral health and families at NSMC, please visit the Family Resource Center.

NSMC (North Shore Medical Center) is a multi-site health system headquartered in Salem, Mass., which includes NSMC Salem Hospital, NSMC Union Hospital in Lynn, MassGeneral for Children at North Shore Medical Center, NSMC Heart Center, NSMC Women’s Center and the physician network known as North Shore Physicians Group. NSMC and Massachusetts General Hospital together provide care at the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care and the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers. NSMC is a member of Partners HealthCare, which was founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. #northshoremed

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