A Life Lost, but How He Fought
LOWELL -- The 50-year-old man who had overdosed more times than anyone else in the city in 2016 was finally heading back to school.
As a state-licensed substance abuse counselor, Jay Quattrochi would be on the front line, working with the most difficult -- just like looking in a mirror from the past.
“That’s where he was the most comfortable,” recalls Bill Carolo, program director of UMass Boston’s Addictions Counselor Education Program.
It was a script perfect for Hollywood: The turnaround from 14 overdoses in 2016, homeless living in a tent and spending close to two decades in jail, to helping those suffering as he had for years.
After heading to the methadone clinic early in the morning, Quattrochi boarded the train at the Gallagher Terminal, making his way to Boston for class.
But last spring, he didn’t finish his first semester in the program.
The logistics of commuting from Lowell to Boston in the morning didn’t help.
Quattrochi was also fighting the pull from the streets of Lowell. He had drifted back to his old comfort zone.
The cafe manager noticed Quattrochi under the influence.
As Addie Farrick, manager at Coffee and Cotton in Mill No. 5, walked him to the nearby shelter a few weeks ago, Quattrochi opened up about his addiction struggles.
He had been in several rehab programs, he told Farrick. After getting out, he was isolated and had no support, he told her.
“It’s difficult to see someone struggling so much, and not able to get the help they needed,” Farrick said, reflecting on what she described as a “moving” conversation with him.
Last weekend, a person was inside a bathroom at Mill No. 5, not responding to an employee.
Farrick’s gut told her Quattrochi was in there, experiencing yet another overdose.
First responders arrived as soon as they could, but it was too late. Quattrochi was 51.
Two years ago, he showed a Sun reporter a six-month record of clean drug tests. He said he had turned the corner after a brutal 2016.
Quattrochi was heading to methadone, counseling and a 12-step program.
“Life is worth living,” Jay said two years ago.
“I have never been happier,” he later added.
A few months later, Quattrochi enrolled at UMass Boston. He was able to get financial assistance from Social Security disability.
In addition to school, he was working hard on reconnecting with family.
“He was really recreating his life to be of service to others,” Carlo at UMass Boston said.
Somewhere along the line, Quattrochi may have lost sight of his own needs, the program director said.
It’s an all-too-common scenario -- when the person who has battled addiction for years thinks more about others, trying to make up for the past. While helping others, they fail to notice the signs of his/her imminent trouble.
“I think he put other people ahead of himself to a fault, losing sight of his own needs,” Carlo said. “It’s a shame.”
Once people finish a recovery program, they’re not suddenly cured and can simply walk away from battling this disease.
Addiction will stay with people their entire lives, emphasized Bill Garr, CEO of Lowell House.
They’re always prone to relapsing, he added.
“It is one nasty disease,” Garr said. “It just doesn’t let people alone.”
These tragedies -- people relapsing after making progress -- all point back to the need for more services, support and recovery coaching, according to Garr.
Recovery centers or recovery cafes, where people can go during the day and feel part of something, are badly needed, he said.
“We don’t have enough services to support people while in recovery,” Garr said.
Some state legislators have floated the idea of safe-injection sites, where people could go to use heroin.
It’s important to continue this dialogue, Garr said. Research in Canada and other countries shows how effective those facilities have been, saving people from overdoses, he stressed.
He’s not sure if that type of facility would have saved Quattrochi.
“But maybe it would have,” Garr added.
The owner of Mill No. 5, Jim Lichoulas, knew Quattrochi by name. He had become a more frequent guest at the mill, located near the shelter.
They would talk about his struggles, which visibly ramped up in the last two months, Lichoulas said.
Quattrochi was down, defeated and tired.
“It just doesn’t go away,” the owner said, echoing Garr.
“We have to put whatever resources we can to help fight this,” he later added.
Quattrochi’s passing last week was hard emotionally on employees at Mill No. 5.
Many people at the mill care, Lichoulas said, and want to pay their respects. They’re trying to find out the date and location of the burial.
“This is so heartbreaking,” Farrick, the cafe manager at the mill, said. “We need to honor him in some way.”
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.