Coalition would step up prevention efforts

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NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck Youth Services Executive Director Kristin Mabrouk is working to take substance abuse prevention for borough youth to the next level, but she needs the community’s help to do so.

Mabrouk is developing a community coalition and action plan for addressing youth substance use.

Naugatuck, like every municipality in the state, has had a local prevention council working to address the issue for many years. The state established the councils in 1988 to enhance local involvement in the development and implementation of drug prevention activities.

Central Naugatuck Valley Regional Action Council Executive Director Jennifer DeWitt described a community prevention coalition as a “stepped-up version” of the local council.

“It’s a local prevention council with a Superman cape,” DeWitt said.

The plan, Mabrouk said, is to focus on preventing youth using marijuana and alcohol by making community-level changes to affect the environment where substance abuse occurs. She said marijuana and alcohol were chosen after speaking with focus groups and borough departments, including the police department and school system.

Alcohol is the most readily available and socially acceptable drug for youth, Mabrouk said. Marijuana was chosen because addressing marijuana youth could help expand to other issues, like opioids, she said.

“It’s not to say every marijuana user becomes a heroin user or every heroin user started with marijuana,” Mabrouk said.

There are lots of community groups making efforts to address substance abuse, Mabrouk said. The coalition and action plan are part of a larger effort to collaborate better, she said.

The effort could also lead to more funding.

The Central Naugatuck Valley Regional Action Council facilitates the funding for the local prevention councils under its purview, including the Naugatuck council, DeWitt said. The local councils receive federal funding, though not much, and Naugatuck gets about $6,000 a year, she said.

“These dollars are an absolute drop in the bucket,” DeWitt said.

As Mabrouk works to establish the coalition and action plan, she is doing so in the hopes of also securing a $125,000 matching grant through the federal drug free communities grant program.

The coalition and plan are necessary to apply for the grant. The coalition needs to have representatives from a dozen different sectors of the community, including youth agencies, the school system, health care organizations, law enforcement, local government, parents, and religious organizations.

“It’s one of those takes-a-village issues, everybody needs to be represented,” Mabrouk said.

There is a meeting Monday at 5:15 p.m. at youth services, 13 Scott St., for anyone interested in volunteering to be a part of the coalition.

Volunteers don’t necessarily have to be from one of the 12 sectors or experts in substance abuse prevention. They need to be willing to volunteer their time to help run projects and get information out to the community, Mabrouk said.

“It takes volunteers in the community to spread this kind of message,” she said.

Those who are interested in being a part of the coalition but can’t make Monday’s meeting can email info@naugatuckyouthservices.org for more information.

While Mabrouk is looking to secure money through the highly-competitive drug free communities grant to aid the effort, she plans to move forward with the coalition regardless of the additional funding.

“The process of doing the steps we need to do to get the grant gets us to where we need to be anyways,” she said.