Grant received to fight drug use among youths in borough

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Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro speaks at a news conference alongside Naugauck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess at the Naugatuck Youth Services building on Tuesday morning. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — Drug prevention coalition Step Up Naugy will receive a $625,000 grant to help keep borough youths off drugs.

The funding comes from the 2022 Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and will be paid in $125,000 installments over five years.

U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd District, said at a news conference on Aug. 30 the pandemic may have worsened the nation’s drug problem among young people.

“Substance misuse among young people has devastated our communities and I only think that the pandemic exacerbated that with regard to isolation, anxiety, depression, lack of support,” said DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

There have been 107 overdose deaths in the borough from 2015 until this year, reported the state Department of Public Health.

The House Appropriations Committee provided $106 million for the Drug-Free Communities Program for 2022, an increase of $4 million over 2021.

Step Up Naugy was one of 99 grantees nationwide selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed process.

The funding for Naugatuck will help to build readiness and resources of the coalition and strengthen community collaboration in support of local efforts to prevent youth substance misuse.

Step Up Naugy, a program out of Naugatuck Youth Services, focuses on preventing use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs among borough youth.

N. Warren ‘Pete’ Hess. Archive

Naugatuck Youth Services executive director and Step Up Naugy project director Kristin Mabrouk said the organization received this same grant for a similar amount five years ago.

The grant established Step Up Naugy to become an important resource for the community.

The group has been able to train hundreds of community members in naloxone administration to reverse opioid overdoses and use QPR — Question Persuade Refer, an evidence-based suicide prevention protocol.

“We’re building relationships,” Mabrouk said. “We are making sure that as a community we are there and wrapping our arms around some of our youth and supporting the ones that need it and connecting them.”

DeLauro said Step Up Naugy is a needed community organization to provide access to youth substance misuse, prevention, treatment services, education and public awareness.

“It takes a village to really address some of the serious challenges that we have today,” DeLauro said.

DeLauro said relationships that are created and trust levels that have to be developed are so people don’t feel alone or isolated and instead begin to interact with others.

“It’s about saving lives and there isn’t any more noble effort that we can do given what we know about alcohol abuse, about gambling, about drugs. I know this from my own family,” DeLauro said. “You try to cope with it and you try to deal with it the best way you can as parents, as grandparents.”

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said mental health concerns and the opioids crisis is a huge issue. He said they have affected him and many of his friends. Almost everyone has been touched, he said.

“It’s the toughest problem to solve that I’ve been working on. It just doesn’t go away. I think we’ve done a very good job so far and we want to do better and keep it going,” Hess said. “This is going to pave the way for us to make more progress, save lives, help people.”

Step Up Naugy Prevention program manager Sarah DeFlumeri, who joined the organization in 2017 as an intern said she was able to watch the group grow over the first five years.

“Even though I started to kind of move away from youth services and Step Up Naugy, I realized this really was a unique community and a community that I felt like I belonged in so I’m very excited to be working here full time,” DeFlumeri said.