Chelsea Airs Drug Worries At Town Mtg.

Front Page / May. 21, 2015 1:15pm EDT

By Sarah Caouette

A special meeting was held at Chelsea Town Hall Tuesday, May 12 to discuss the growing number of incidents related to drug addiction and distribution reported in and around Orange and Windsor counties.

The meeting was a collaborative effort between First Branch Ambulance Service and the Chelsea selectboard. Red flags had been raised by Selectman Mike Kuban and First Branch Captain Linda Kuban, as well as by other public officials.

Also present were Chelsea school nurse Charlotte Faccio and school counselor Melinda Farnham, Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, and several representatives of First Branch Ambulance and Chelsea Fire Department.

A handful of residents attended who had heard unsettling reports in the wake of the heroin overdose that occurred in Randolph a couple weeks ago.

“We want to alleviate some of these problems before the situation worsens, and so people know what is going on,” explained Selectboard Chair Carol Olsen. Mike Kuban, who is also an EMT for First Branch, spoke of the urgency to present these new developments at a community forum.

“This is becoming a real problem,” said Kuban, who described responding to two heroin overdoses in the area during the two weeks leading up to the Randolph incident. These, he said, were “not a coincidence.”

Shades of Rutland

“The State Police are comparing what we are seeing in Randolph, South Royalton and Bethel, to the issues Rutland has been facing,” added Bohnyak. “There’s been a drastic increase in the recovery of drugs during traffic stops in the last 10 years all across Vermont.”

And the numbers, he said are shocking—with busts that are more frequent and yielding higher quantities.

“What can we do as a town?” was the question on everyone’s mind.

Faccio and Farnham shared what they have been doing in the school with education prevention, starting with the 5th grade and up. They also recently received an afterschool grant, which they are hoping to use to foster healthy connections in the community.

Both Kuban and Bohnyak warned there is no age discrimination when it comes to looking at trends in using drugs. When you are seeing addiction problems being passed down from parents to their children, affecting generations of families—that’s when you know it’s a societal problem, they said.

A New Reality

It’s no longer about protecting your kids from the petty, street corner dealer, they said. It’s about a community worrying about home invasions, about whether residents need more locks on their doors. And it’s about a community wondering how they can help known addicts find treatment, or when it’s one’s place to get involved when there is suspicion of neglect in a home.

“People are in denial that this is even an issue,” one attendee commented.

Another brought up the moral dilemma of telling your kids not to take drugs, while we are surrounded by the pressure of pharmaceutical companies pushing meds for everything from anxiety and attention disorders, to blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.

Everyone at the meeting agreed that they weren’t going to wait around for the state to tackle this problem for them, or to open up more treatment facilities.

One area resident criticized the reactive approach that is taken in confronting many societal problems.

“We fund prisons, but not education,” it was noted. We open more clinics, but don’t really work on the systemic problems that push people down the path of addiction.

Future Efforts

In closing, a handful of attendees volunteered to hand out information about addiction at local events, while plans are being made for future town discussions that encourage family involvement. The town welcomes all to these future meetings.

The consensus was that an active approach needs to be taken, beginning in the home and reaching out to others.

Some towns have even put Narcan in the homes of addicts, Olsen said. However, Chelsea town officials agree that making Narcan available and easily accessible to residents would be simply condoning addiction.

Also, the drugs today are fortified and strengthened with additives, Michael Kuban said.

“It is taking more and more Narcan to bring people back.”

“Narcan also has very dangerous side effects,” Linda Kuban added. “And it shouldn’t be handed out freely.”

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