Founder and Executive Director, Learn to Cope Inc.
Joanne Peterson is the Founder and Executive Director of Learn to Cope (LTC), a non-profit peer-led support network which began in 2004. Joanne’s journey started as a young girl with siblings experiencing issues with mental illness and addiction. After years of watching family members struggle with opioid addiction starting with prescriptions, she was motivated and empowered to use her voice to bring about change. She designed LTC to offer families the support, education, resources, and hope that her family would have benefited from.
Funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH), Learn to Cope has grown to have a full staff who collaborate with communities across the state, spreading messages of prevention, education, awareness, and advocacy. Moreover, LTC has 25 chapters throughout Massachusetts, a chapter in Florida, and a private, online forum that supports over 11,000 members. In each of these branches of LTC, families receive unique support and education from professionals and peers.
Through advocacy and awareness, Ms. Peterson collaborated with MADPH to become the first parent network in the country to provide the overdose reversal antidote nasal naloxone. Today, facilitators are trained and certified to provide overdose education and nasal naloxone kits at each Massachusetts chapter. This life saving education and medication that LTC members receive has successfully reversed over 200 opioid overdoses since December 2011.
With the growth and expansion of LTC, Joanne has been called upon by high-level government and law enforcement officials, coalitions, and educators to assist in their efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. In January 2015, Ms. Peterson was a guest of Senator Ed Markey at the White House State of the Union Address. Then, in October 2015, Ms. Peterson participated on a panel with Attorney General Maura Healey, Mayor Martin Walsh, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the prescription drug and heroin crisis in Massachusetts. Later that year, she was a recipient of the Advocate for Action award presented by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In 2016, Ms. Peterson was asked by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to participate as a panelist for the National Governor’s Association Health and Human Services Committee in Washington DC to discuss the nation’s opioid crisis. She was invited to the White House to participate in a discussion on the Administration’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic, held by Michael Botticelli, former National Drug Control Policy Director.
Currently, Ms. Peterson sits on the Massachusetts Health and Human Services Emergency Department working group along with the Governor’s Special Commission to investigate and study licensed addiction treatment centers for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She is a board member of RIZE Massachusetts, a member of the Attorney General’s Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and a part of the Family Advisory Council for the Purdue Pharma Lawsuits. She serves on the Advisory Boards of the National Child and Traumatic Stress Network as well as Harvard University’s Recovery Research Institute, she is also serves on the MCAS (Massachusetts Coalition of Addiction Services) and HEAL Communities coalitons, Plymouth County DA Task Force Executive Committee, Norfolk County DA Coalition, Worcester County DA Task Force.
In 2019, Ms. Peterson served as an impact board member for the Grammy and Tony nominated Broadway hit, Jagged Little Pill. She was brought in by Level Forward Productions and the producers and writers of the show to work with the cast. She also previewed the show’s rehearsals to check for authenticity around the family dynamic and trauma of opioid addiction. The play is based on the 1995 Alanis Morissette album and Academy award winning writer Diablo Cody’s book.
In March 2021 took oath of office to serve on the Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund Advisory Council by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Joanne’s experience working with families harmed by the Opioid crisis for over twenty years she is proud to be the voice for families.