- Associated Press - Sunday, July 6, 2014

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (AP) - It’s too late to free her son from heroin’s grip, but Kenna Waterman wants to ensure another struggling addict gets help.

Waterman’s son, Joshua Bressette, was found dead on a Bronx, New York, rooftop on May 8. Although it remains unknown who killed him, Bressette’s death is assumed by family, friends and police to be drug-related. Bressette, who was 25 when he died, was never convicted of any drug charges, but was known to many as a heroin user and dealer.

Within days of learning of her son’s death, Waterman created the Joshua Bressette Victim and Witness Protection Fund. At the time, she didn’t have a clear vision of how the money would be used, but now her mission has come into focus.

“The best use for the Joshua Bressette victim fund is to create a scholarship to be used to send at least one person a year to a rehab facility,” Waterman said. “The initial cost of saving one’s life through rehabilitation is at least $10,000. It is my intent to find a successful rehab facility willing to match the funds raised by the fund in order for a selected recipient to receive the best continued care available.”

Waterman hopes to raise $10,000 through the fund - it already has received more than $1,000 in the six weeks since Bressette’s death - by the end of 2014.

“The person who is picked to go to such a rehab will have to already have completed a detox program and must be totally committed to becoming clean and changing his or her life for the better,” she said.

Bressette’s death comes at a time when the community’s struggles with addiction has reached previously unseen levels, according to users and officials. The Brien Center, the county’s largest substance abuse treatment center, now treats more people for heroin and opioid addiction than for alcohol.

The rise of the drug’s usage - and its consequences - also may best be illustrated by the use of Narcan, a fast-acting drug that can help reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. In the past three months alone, the North Adams Ambulance Service has administered Narcan 21 times, a number that even North Adams Ambulance General Manager John Meaney Jr. believes is alarming.

“I can tell you it was nowhere near that in years past,” Meaney said.

It’s difficult to determine exactly how much heroin comes into Berkshire County. Though it is clear from interviews with several sources and past police affidavits that much of it comes from New York City, either directly or by way of heroin hotspots, such as Holyoke.

Bressette, during his most active dealing spurts, could sell one or two dozen bundles of heroin in a day, according to those close to him. Every bundle contains 10 bags of heroin packaged for individual use, which sell for roughly $10 to $15 each on the street.

Most heroin addictions begin by abusing prescription painkillers, and eventually, the addict often makes the switch to heroin because it’s significantly less expensive.

“We started out doing pills, maybe once a month, but slowly doing it more and more,” said Jedidiah Bressette, Joshua Bressette’s brother. “One day we just woke up and needed drugs to feel normal.”

For a person in this situation, in North Adams, it can be an easy switch to heroin. Some dealers will provide newer users with free dope. Once the user is hooked, the dealer says it’s time to start paying.

“I could get you dope right now,” said one source who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s very easy. It’s too easy. It’s easier to get dope than it is to get weed.”

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