NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Police Department and Board of Education are bringing back the DARE program starting next school year.
“We’re not immune to the problems facing the state and the country, especially as it relates to opioids,” Police Chief Steven Hunt said.
DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is a substance abuse prevention education program led by police officers. When Hunt became chief in March, attacking the opioid crisis was at the top of his goals. Hunt said education is an important part of accomplishing that goal.
“I truly feel that DARE is the best educational component for us to utilize,” Hunt said.
Naugatuck schools previously ran the program for fifth-graders, but hasn’t run it for several years.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini said school officials decided to bring the program back for two reasons.
Society is facing a drug epidemic, especially with opioids, and students face a lot of challenges as they move on through the upper grades, Montini said. He added that relationships with law enforcement need to improve in society, and the program is a way to help foster that relationship in Naugatuck.
“I think having a Naugatuck police officer in school, in front of our classrooms, establishing those relationships, I think this community and our kids and our police department are going to be better served,” Montini said.
Hunt echoed those sentiments, saying the program gives police officers an opportunity to establish trust with students.
Five Naugatuck police officers completed DARE training this year. Starting next fall, all seventh-graders, instead of fifth-graders, will go through the program.
Hunt said officials feel seventh-graders are more mature to discuss the issues covered in the program. The 10-week program will run once a week for about 45 to 60 minutes, he said.
There is a cost associated with running the program for the officers’ time. Depending on what shifts the officers who will administer the program work, Hunt said they may be entitled to additional compensation or overtime.
There is also a minimal cost for the handbooks, Hunt said, and the department is working with a local organization to get them donated for next school year.
Hunt said he’s pleased to be running the program again, adding that if it can save even just one live it’ll be worth it.