May 10, 2016
BY GREG BARLOW NEWS CORRESPONDENT
BLACKSTONE VALLEY TRIBUNE
Students get harsh look at effects of drug abuse
DOUGLAS — Since taking office in 2011, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis has made it a priority to take a local approach towards solving the national drug addiction epidemic. With 90 percent of the people currently behind bars in the Worcester County Jail in West Boylston recorded as drug or alcohol addicts, Evangelidis has attended at least one middle or high school in the Worcester County on a weekly basis to allow young people to think twice before putting drugs into their bodies. “I promised when I ran for office that I would be actively involved in the community as much as possible to help solve this drug epidemic that I saw coming,” said Evangelidis. “It happens in every town in the Worcester County including your own. Young people have to think twice before going down that road because you don’t know where it will go.” On Wednesday, Feb. 24, Evangelidis paid a visit to the freshman and sophomores of Douglas High School to effectively educate them on substance abuse. Reaching out to the younger demographic, he hopes to bring frequent drug-related issues to students’ attention to battle future drug use among the young people across the region. Evangelidis builds his anti-drug program from the repetitive stories inmates tell him. Often in their stories, the inmates started drug habits at an early age. Evangelidis’ Face2Face program provides an energetic and modern approach of informing students on drug abuse, while it advises them on how to properly handle a decision when facing drug-related peer pressure. During his visits, Evangelidis notifies high school students on current drug trends that occur on a local and national level while incorporating a state of the art face configuring application into his presentation that demonstrates the physical harm drug abuse can cause over time. His program is the only one of its kind, as he’s the only sheriff across the country that offers this program. Better yet, the program is completely free for the schools. To the date, he’s reached out to more than 200,000 students at more than 100 schools. Throughout the program, he debunks common drug-related myths and spotlights the facts concerning drugs and alcohol, while engaging his young audience by revealing shocking (and sometimes graphic) before-andafter photographs of celebrities who’ve struggled with drug addiction. From Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus to Boston Celtics’ 1986 first round NBA draft pick Len Bias, who overdosed on drugs during his first time ever using, Evangelidis conveys the riveting tales of famous people and how their lives and careers were destroyed from drugs. The presentation also emphasizes critical focus points within common drug-related myths and reveals true facts like Americans take 80 percent of the worlds’ opiates, when we only produce 5 percent. Even more alarming, as a country, we lost 48,000 people from drug-related deaths in 2015, compared to the 50,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War. “It’s a drug war that our country continues to lose,” said Evangelidis. “There’s a tipping point of people dying in their 20’s, but the addiction starts here in high school. The absolute abundance of opioids in our community is out there with a myth about them not being dangerous or addictive.” Evangelidis believes the influx of drug addiction over the past decade is directly related to a new wave of opiates like oxycodone, which are overprescribed, making them highly attainable to get into the wrong hands. Additionally, 50 percent of drug addicts in the Blackstone Valley are under the age of 30. As they chase the high it’s common for addicts to transition from pills to heroin as a cheaper alternative. A father and former high school teacher, Evangelidis recognizes where drug addiction begins and hopes his program will stick with his audience as they face difficult decisions down the line. “I can say this for a fact,” said Evangelidis to the Douglas students. “There are people who were sitting in your chairs threefour years ago and are now in jail due to drugs.” Up next, Evangelidis will return to Douglas Middle School on March 16 to present to the seventh and eighth graders. Looking ahead, Evangelidis hopes to one day reach young people on a national scale as he thinks his program would be a beneficial countrywide program.
May 10, 2016
BY OLIVIA RICHMAN
NEWS STAFF WRITER, SPENCER NEW LEADER
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis brought his Face2Face program to Bay Path Regional Technical Vocational High School on April 8, in an attempt to prevent students from abusing drugs and alcohol. “For me, there’s a lot of students out there who are going through that thought process of whether drugs or alcohol will become part of their lives,” said Evangelidis. “We live in a world where people don’t know the truth until it’s too late. I try to bring the stories that I learned by being sheriff, dealing with inmates and people in recovery. I hear on a daily basis that people say that they wish they knew then what they know now. They wish someone had talked to them and told the truth about these drugs. They only heard myths.” Bay Path’s Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) Advisor Dina LePage brought Face2Face to Bay Path after taking a survey at the beginning of the year, asking students what they believed would be a topic that would benefit the school. “This program came to our school a few years ago,” said LePage. “The juniors and seniors remembered the program and it made a powerful impact on them. The sheriff comes in and shows the students what could happen to their bodies and appearance when they are using drugs. That has a huge impact on these kids, many of whom don’t understand the physical effects drugs have on their bodies.” The Face2Face program uses a new facial recognition technology that shows students what their faces will look like after meth use, opiates and other hard drugs. When students see their faces after meth use, it usually affects them, said Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Community Outreach Coordinator Shawn McKenna. “This program is very important because kids are growing up a lot faster now, with the Internet, cell phones, TV … you are seeing these topics introduced at an earlier age,” continued McKenna. “It’s important to us, as a correctional institution, to get to them before they reach that path. They can identify the warning signs and hopefully not get to that point. It benefits everyone, the kids and the community.” For educators, the program is often welcome because of the reality Face2Face brings to the students. Face2Face shows the effects of drugs on the face and body, but also what it can do to a user’s life. “Kids say they know. They think they know about drugs,” said LaPage. “They think it may be recreational at a party, make them feel good. They don’t often consider the consequences. They need to understand the long-term effects and what could transpire. You could end up in jail or killing yourself. They’re living within the moment. They need to realize what the consequences may be. I’m hoping that we can get a few kids to stop and think. We aren’t going to change everybody, but if we can reach a few people and make them realize it’s not a healthy lifestyle it’s worth bringing the program in.” For Evangelidis, he is hoping the program “pushes different buttons.” Since all different types of people are affected by drug use and alcohol abuse, Evangelidis wants to make sure all students are affected by the program. “When you hear the same story over and over as sheriff, that people’s lives have been derailed by choices in middle and high school … it always includes drugs and alcohol,” he said. “I want to change that. I have two teenage daughters and I saw firsthand the potential for this drug epidemic we are in. I felt compelled to do whatever I could. I feel I have a good platform to do it.”
May 10, 2016
BY JASON BLEAU
NEWS STAFF WRITER WEBSTER
Those passing through Perryville Road in Webster on Wednesday, April 13, may have noticed some work taking place on a bridge overlooking the Perryville Dam. During the early afternoon hours that particular bridge was the subject of the Worcester Country Sheriff Office’s most recent graffiti cleanup effort through a program launched in 2015 to serve the towns of Worcester County free of charge by removing graffiti from bridges, businesses and other town and private properties as needed. Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis said the addition of a graffiti removal apparatus and service to the region was sparked from his discussions with concerned residents and business owners in Worcester and the city’s extensive problems with graffiti on properties of all kinds. With Worcester being far from the only area of the region with such a problem, the sheriff decided to invest in providing the service for any town in his county. “A few years ago we noticed there was a huge increase and up tick in graffiti around the county, especially in Worcester. It was tagging a lot of private businesses as well as public buildings and we saw the community’s response,” said Evangelidis. “A lot of businesses didn’t have the money and the DPW was overwhelmed and there’s a public safety element when it comes to graffiti and tagging because it’s often gang and criminal related.” The sheriff described the issue using the “window pane syndrome” saying that it’s the kind of situation that can be resolved with constant upkeep and attention, but if left unattended for too long it can escalate out of control. The Perryville Road bridge in Webster is only the latest effort to remove graffiti from public domains and according to Officer Dan Joslyn, who was on site helping with the cleanup, it was a project requested to the sheriff’s office by the Webster Police. “One of the sergeants from the police department requested that we come down here and see if there’s something we could do about it,” Joslyn said. “Normally with stuff like this it goes unseen so it just keeps getting worse and worse. Kids will come down here and see it and think nobody cares, so they end up making more of a mess. A lot of towns try to keep that kind of activity to a minimum. People don’t like seeing this.” Josyln called the system “self-contained” with the cleanup requiring a single truck and the use of a sandblasting system that utilizes an all-natural mineral described as “hard and fine” in order to remove the paint. The extent of the process and how long it takes to remove the paint is dependent on the material it is being removed from and the type of paint used for the graffiti, but most materials are easily removed using the equipment available. Sheriff Evangelidis said he’s glad to see his new program really taking off and that he is proud communities are taking full advantage of it. He called it a worthy investment to help solve a small but growing issue in communities throughout his region. “It’s a public safety issue and it’s a beautification issue for the entire county,” he said. “The best thing of all is we do it for private and public properties and we try to get it done as quickly as possible. I think it’s just another benefit we can offer the people of Worcester County to make our community a better and safer place.”
May 2, 2016
Posted May. 1, 2016
MILFORD – Before Citizens for Milford and others hit the streets for Beautification Day Saturday, Worcester County inmates took care of some of the thornier sections of town.
As part of Sheriff Lew Evangelidis’ community service program, the inmates tackled the tough areas such as Dilla Street and Cedar Street. Working in teams on Thursday and Friday, they helped clear trash off a wide swath of the town.
“They did a great job yesterday and it looks great,” said Amie Sanborn, chairwoman of the Beautification Day subcommittee. “They help in that they do a lot of the streets that we deem too dangerous.”
The work is part of an overall initiative to get inmates out cleaning the community five days a week. Since taking office in 2011, Evangelidis has tripled the program, according to Kim Roy, his director of external affairs.
Since 2011, Roy estimates the program has completed about $6 million in the cost it would take to hire cleaning crews.
The prisoners that participate in the program, Evangelidis said, are the best of the best — they’re non-violent offenders with no sex crimes. They’ve worked to earn the right to take part in the program, he said.
“We want to promote the idea that these inmates, especially those that work in this program, they are people that are turning their lives around. They’re giving back and they’re people that should be given an opportunity,” said Evangelidis. “They’ve earned that right.”
One inmate, Alberto, said he’s getting out on May 5, and the program helps him feel like he’s heading out and getting to work. Plus, he said, “it’s good to give back to the community.”
Regarding the Milford assignment, several inmates said it wasn’t half bad. Usually, they’re on the highway, so cleaning municipal streets is stress-free by comparison. Another inmate, Frank, said someone even honked a horn, yelled “Freedom!” and stuck up a closed fist in solidarity.
They got a chuckle out of that, he said.
Others were just happy to get out of the House of Corrections.
“I was trying to get a tan worked on too,” said another inmate named Paul, wearing a cut sleeve shirt, to crease out the farmer’s tan.
“I don’t think we have any tanning lotion, though.”