Print
Category: 2017
Hits: 512

Lowell Sun
Date: 6/21/17

CHELMSFORD -- There's strength in seeking help.

That's one of the messages Chelmsford resident Jodi Tarantino hopes to convey as the new host of Airing Addiction, a weekly radio program on WTAG 580 AM in Worcester.

Tarantino, a licensed social worker and program director of residential services at Spectrum Health System Inc.'s Charles J. Faris Recovery Center in Westboro, said she hopes to destigmatize addiction, treatment and behavioral health in general.

"I think so many people are struggling with so many different things and just don't feel like they should access treatment or they should let anybody know about it," she said. "There's still such a notion out in the greater community that we just need to be able to buck up and get through life. That really impedes the process of people getting the help that they need."

Tarantino is not in recovery herself, but she has personal and clinical experience. She lost her sister two years ago to alcoholism, and helped another family member get treatment.

Airing Addiction launched on WTAG/iHeart Radio in July, and then on SoundCloud and iTunes in January.

It was first hosted by Donna Pellegrino, Spectrum's former vice president of business development. Tarantino was a guest on the show a couple times to talk about residential treatment before co-hosting with Pellegrino prior to her departure. Tarantino officially took over as host May 27.

The program has helped many people seek treatment, and Tarantino hopes to further expand that reach. For her first show over Memorial Day weekend, Tarantino brought on a retired Army sergeant turned recovery specialist who discussed substance abuse in the military. Past guests include former Spectrum clients, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. and journalist Sam Quinones, author of "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic."

Tarantino grew up in Gorham, N.H., and lived in Leominster before relocating to Chelmsford about four years ago because she felt it was a good place for her two young children to go to school.

She attended the University of New Hampshire with the intention of going into sports broadcasting, but during her sophomore year she got a job with Upward Bound that "changed my life and propelled me in a different direction," Tarantino said.

She went on to earn her bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degree in social work from UNH.

She's worked in many facets of her field over the past 16 years, including child protection in New Hampshire, outpatient therapy in Lawrence, family residential care in Worcester and as a licensing inspector for the Department of Public Health's Substance Abuse Bureau.

Tarantino joined Spectrum in 2014, helping to launch Bright Futures in Methuen, a state-funded residential substance abuse treatment program for adolescent boys. She took on her current role last year, overseeing 104 residential treatment beds for men and women.

Tarantino said the opioid epidemic has increased understanding that addiction can happen to anyone, and she hopes to further broaden that understanding through the conversations she fosters on her show. She said it's important that people understand "what addiction does to people is not who they are," and she intends to explore the emotional, physical and medical traumas that can lead to substance abuse.

"This is a human being who was not always like this. In first grade when they ask you what you want to be when you grow up, they probably never said, 'I want to be an addict. I want to overdose when I'm 20 years old,'" she said. "Something happened to get them to that point, but that doesn't make them any less of a person."

Once a hidden family secret, more and more families are acknowledging in obituaries that addiction led to the deaths of their loved ones. Tarantino said she sees this as a step in the right direction, because it puts "faces to the disease."

Airing Addiction airs Saturdays at 10 a.m. on WTAG. For more information, visit facebook.com/AiringAddiction.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.