Cheers echoed throughout the Common Council chamber Wednesday as the city announced that it is officially a “Recovery Friendly Community.”
With over 400,000 deaths by overdose in the state from 1999 to 2017, there is a need to address this public health crisis with a plan to build prevention efforts, promote awareness about opioid misuse, and to reduce deaths and injuries, a resolution stated. By becoming a “Recovery Friendly Community,” by a unanimous vote, the city is committed to work with the community to help those who are suffering from this disease.
According to the resolution, New Britain residents accounted for 36 of the state’s 1,033 unintentional overdose deaths in 2017.
“This job is not easy,” said Mayor Erin Stewart. “The task is a hefty goal but I’m confident that we will get there. This is a great resolution. it means a lot to the people in this community.”
The chamber was filled with community members suppording the resolution, including Jody Davis, executive director of Coram Deo Recovery, a sober house that she started 13 years ago for women in the city. She said she had been waiting for this day and this moment for a long time.
“Recovery is possible. New Britain is a recovery-friendly community already and just taking it to the next level is very exciting for me,” said Davis, who introduced Sara Piatti, a Coram Deo client, certified recovery coach and peer recovery support specialist.
“When I stepped foot into New Britain over five years ago, that was when my recovery started,” said Piatti, who shared her recovery story with the council members and the audience. “My recovery home is in New Britain.”
She has been sober for five years and now helps women who are in difficult situations to transition into a better life.
“We’re very grateful for what New Britain has to offer and we’re very grateful to be a part of it,” said Davis.
The Police Department launched the H.O.P.E. (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) initiative in 2018, which allows people to seek treatment in lieu of an arrest on a charge of drug or paraphernalia possession or paraphernalia at the discretion of the officer. According to the city, this initiative has been able to positively impact 77 people so far by connecting them with services to help treat their addiction.
In 2019, Stewart started the Mayor’s Opioid Response Task Force to reduce opioid and heroin overdose in the city by 50% by 2021. The mayor and other elected officials have also partnered with public safety directors and the Local Prevention Council to understand data collected, maintain response preparedness, and strategize the steps necessary to effectively help those struggling with addiction.
Alden Russell, a Board of Assessment Appeals commissioner and longtime resident, said he has a personal connection with the resolution as a reformed addict himself. He said when he was young, he didn’t know where to get help, tried on his own, and failed many times. After several medical issues, Russell eventually found rehabilitation and counseling, and realized there were so many others who needed help as well.
“Today I can be proud to say I have been clean for over 20 years,” said Russell, who has directed those in need toward the H.O.P.E. initiative. “The program is great and I have helped three people get into it to receive help. This is why I stand by this resolution and I’m very happy with it. It’s all about advocating, education, reaching out and helping those in need.”