"It's too late for my son Michael, but it's not too late for other mothers to save other sons."
Those chilling yet powerful words, voiced by Lori Paterno Rogers during an interview with Times staff writer Joann Mackenzie last week, capsulizes her thoughts regarding the city's recent scourge of heroin overdoses.
And it has indeed been a scourge, with at least two such fatalities since Feb. 17, plus a Feb. 22 incident in which a 29-year-old woman overdosed in an apartment on Gloucester's Washington Street, yet thankfully survived — thanks in part to being treated at the scene with Narcan — a nasal medication used to reverse the overdose's effects.
Yet, despite the grief Rogers and her family members no doubt feel for Michael Rogers, 26, who died Feb. 17 of an overdose n Cleveland Street — Lori and her family wanted to convey what they saw, heard and dealt with during Michael's losing battle with heroin.
Many may disagree with their assessment that "the system killed him" — that Gloucester and its criminal justice system, especially, has not taken heroin seriously.
By many counts, Gloucester police are doing all they can to fight the insidious inroads heroin sellers have made in our city. It was good to see that two alleged sellers have been charged with providing the heroin that killed Michael Rogers. The fact that responders even had Narcan to perhaps save the North Reading woman's life is a good sign. And the efforts of groups such as the Healthy Gloucester Collaborative and Learn to Cope extend helping hands to those who need them — addicts, users, or a users' family members and friends.
But fighting a heroin problem such as Gloucester's takes an entire community — and that means confronting it head-on and talking about it, not pretending it doesn't exist.
In that vein, Lori Paterno Rogers and her family deserve our thanks. For, hopefully, that kind of open discussion about an issue that's all too often kept quiet will indeed help save other mothers' sons.