Mayor Lauretti, Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, Director of Valley Substance Abuse Council Pam Mautte, and Shelton Police Chief Shawn Sequeira gathered to discuss their most recent plans to prevent opioid abuse among the youth.
The team made up of school district officials, health care reps., law enforcement, will hold an informational program May 9 at Shelton Intermediate school open to the public.
“It’s a family focused event, but ultimately we will have events or programs directed towards the students,” said Clouet. “This is a community event to show that this is a team approach between law enforcement, health care experts, and educators.”
Mayor Lauretti said in order to address the country’s battle against the heroin and opioid epidemic, communities need to start working together to educate the children and stop placing blame.
“This is not a school issue, this is a societal issue,” said Mayor Lauretti. “It’s important for young people to know what they are up against, hopefully we can address adults at another time. If parents think the schools are going to solve this, they’re wrong. If society thinks government is going to solve this, they’re wrong. This is about all the moving parts working together to solve this.”
“I felt for a very long time that schools get saddled with society’s ills and politicians do that in Hartford and Washington and it’s very wrong,” said Lauretti.
Mautte said in terms of moving forward with their mission to raise awareness and help teach people about methods of prevention; they are “ahead of the curve.”
Dr. Clouet said the meeting on May 9 is focused on Shelton residents but he expects and welcomes residents from other towns to attend in order to help raise awareness.
“We’re going to be working with our health teachers so that we can upgrade our curriculum so that we’re not just saying, ‘drugs are bad in general,’ which is true, but that we’re looking at specific things that happen to brains when a child is exposed to opioids. We want to be able to work with families who are facing these conditions right now.”
He explained that although it hasn’t been planned yet, at some point he hopes to offer resources to families who have kids in rehab or are struggling with opioids.
Chief Shawn Sequeira of the Shelton Police Department said his law enforcement team have been working hard to address the illegal selling of opioids.
“Within the past four months we’ve been working extensively with the DEA in identifying who is supplying these drugs out in the community and who is actually selling the final dosage drug for each given death.”
Sequeira said over the past four months his team has made 12 opioid related arrests for illegal distribution of heroin or opioids and he is aware that there are many still free.
Mautte said that in a joint effort between law enforcement, healthcare, education, and local government their goal is to get away from a lot of the stigmas attached to addiction in order to make people realize that it can happen to anyone.
“Just remember a lot of people that get addicted to opioids used to be athletes, got hurt, and were prescribed them (opioids),” said Mautte.
According to Mautte, Connecticut had 724 reported opioid related deaths in 2015 which increased by more than 100 since 2014. Shelton had 20 overdoses and 2 deaths since 2015, according to Chief Sequeira.
Mautte added that through these programs being held at schools she hopes to develop effective ways for parents to start having the conversation about drugs.
Dr. Clouet said they are all aware that this is a complex problem.
“None of us claim to have the answer and I think it will take a series of approaches to solve it. This is an evolving crisis and is something we’re all responding to.”