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Counselor has his own story of addiction to share with kids

June 1, 2017 GMT

Andrew McCall smoked mari­juana for the first time at age 11. Three years later, he was sticking needles in his arm to get high.

“I ended up being an IV heroin user by the age of 14,” said McCall, 21, of Attleboro. “By the end of my using, I was 16 years old. I was homeless in the Boston Commons, crying because I didn’t want to get high. Crying, I was screaming because I didn’t want to go and meet up with the drug dealer — but I had to.”

McCall, who has been sober for nearly five years, now works as a recovery specialist at a drug rehab facility in Brockton.

He shared his story yesterday as Attorney General Maura Healey and the GE Foundation announced a $2 million public-private endeavor called Project Here.

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The initiative, which launches this fall, will provide all 329 Bay State middle schools with educational information about drug addiction, specialists to help students and their families coping with drugs and help develop an app available for mobile devices.

“Everybody has problems. ... I went to drugs to solve mine,” McCall said. “But I would say if there were more counselors, if there was an app that I could text and say, ‘I need help’, that would save so many lives.”

Healey, who spoke at General Electric’s Farnsworth Street offices, said, “The best way to stop addiction is to stop it before it starts.

“This state has mandated that we talk to kids about substance use and drugs,” she said. “But we have not comprehensively enough funded that, or provided the resources to actually make that happen. That changes today with this project.”

The GE Foundation has pledged $1.5 million to the program, while Healey’s office is contributing $500,000 in settlement funds. Along with a mobile app and educational material for schools’ curricula, a network of social workers will be assembled to help students or their family members who are struggling with addiction.