The opioid epidemic is changing families in Massachusetts

More than 120,000 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren

A deadly mix of heroin and fentanyl has led to a rise in drug overdoses

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Opioid addiction has taken a devastating toll on families across western Massachusetts. Instead of concentrating on retirement, many seniors now find themselves raising grandchildren.

“All of sudden your totally responsible for other human beings; financially, emotionally, educationally, medically, it’s a big responsibility,” said Maureen Viturale, a grandmother raising her grandchildren.

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of children being raised by relatives in Massachusetts increased by 50%, often because of addiction. In Massachusetts there are more than 120,000 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren who are under the age of 18.

The Massachusetts Commission on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren offered support for affected grandparents in Westfield, Thursday. Chairman John Lepper told 22News they often “intervene because of alcohol and drug addiction.”


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While celebrating their 40th anniversary, one couple found out their two granddaughters had been abandoned. They immediately stepped in and took custody.

The told 22News they take comfort meeting others in their situation. “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, the group is like alcohol, it’s like going to an AA meeting. They walk the walk. They talk the talk,” said Edwin Pemberton of Westfield.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren meet the second Tuesday of every month, at the Westfield Boys and Girls Club on West Silver Street. They also provide child care.

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