Mashpee Cares, a community wellness initiative begun in 2011 to address social issues such as substance abuse, bullying, crime, and poverty, is now an official town committee.
On Monday evening, August 25, the board of selectmen voted unanimously to make the organization an ad hoc advisory town committee, with the intention of formalizing its new status at Town Meeting in May.
Selectman Michael R. Richardson, who has been involved with the organization since it was created by former Mashpee School Superintendent Ann M. Bradshaw, confirmed that the recent spike in opiate and prescription drug addiction in town was a major factor in seeking official town committee status.
“Over the course of the past three years, we have not been able to do as much as we could because we lacked the legitimacy of being an official town organization. We can do more if we get recognized as a committee by the town and are given some authority. I really believe in Mashpee Cares and its mission to better the community,” Mr. Richardson said.
Despite not being an official town committee, the list of projects Mashpee Cares has embarked upon and completed since 2011 is impressive. It was instrumental in the placement of a prescription drug drop-off box at the Mashpee Police Department, establishing a high school chapter of former professional basketball player Chris Herren’s Project Purple anti-drug campaign, and conducting a community wellness night last spring. In addition, a gun buyback program is in the works for later this year.
Mr. Richardson said that he envisions the Mashpee Cares town committee to consist of nine members, which will include representation from designees of the town manager, board of selectmen, school department, police department, fire department, school department, public library, human services, and council on aging. He also hopes to have at-large community involvement as well.
Mr. Richardson said that he wants to have the committee up-and-running by early fall, and start working on projects in conjunction with the Barnstable County Substance Abuse Council, and the Cape Cod Foundation.
“I want to start moving quickly to move this committee forward, because its focus is so important to the wellness of the community,” he said.
Mashpee Public Library Director Kathleen M. Mahoney has also been deeply involved with the organization since its inception.
To date, Mashpee Cares meetings have been held at the library, since it is a place that appeals to all age groups, and because the group was initially focused on youth in the community. Ms. Mahoney also noted that as a result of a survey commissioned early on by the organization, the library began offering programs to make the library a more supportive and safe place for at-risk youth in town. She also praised the former Falmouth
Prevention Partnership, now a part of Gosnold on Cape Cod, for mentoring Mashpee Cares volunteers on how to create and implement programs.
“When Ann Bradshaw resigned, the program lost some of its momentum. She had all of the information and was calling all of the shots, so it took us a while to regroup and decide if we wanted to keep it going. Then the wave of opiate and prescription drug addiction and overdoses hit Mashpee and we decided that we definitely needed to continue and expand the Mashpee Cares effort,” Ms. Mahoney said.