West Hartford reviving substance abuse and mental health prevention coalition

View of West Hartford Town Hall in West Hartford, Conn., on Thursday Jan. 7, 2020.

WEST HARTFORD — The town’s social services department is looking for residents to join its revival of the town’s prevention partnership coalition.

The coalition, which the department said is meant to assess the substance use and mental health needs of the community, will have its first meeting on Oct. 21.

Astrid Calderon, the town’s social services manager, said they hope to incorporate a diverse group of West Hartford residents into the group.

“The reason we are activating the coalition is because we have found that we need to incorporate more actions to make sure that we are more inclusive and that we are incorporating different areas of the population,” Calderon said.

Calderon said an important addition to the coalition is the issue of mental health, as well as the fact that this new iteration of the coalition will not focus solely on youth, but all populations.

“Creating this coalition is really about engaging different partnerships in the community,” said Kelly Waterhouse, a social worker with the town. “There are a lot of people doing a lot of really good work and are really passionate. If we know what the issues are we can work collaboratively. We want to make sure the diversity of the community is included in that.”

Waterhouse said the coalition in the past had been tied to specific funding, which is a reason why it was dormant for a period of time. They also wanted to restructure the coalition while it was paused. This new version of the coalition will be supported by a prevention grant that’s worth just over $12,000.

They hope that this new version will give ownership to its community members.

“We want this to be specifically driven by the community,” Waterhouse said. “We’re taking on this reforming of this group. We don’t want it to be something we’re controlling. We want it to be community driven.”

The town is looking for members from all backgrounds, they said. That might include people who have watched family members dealing with addiction or people who are in recovery from addiction. They’re also looking for experts on the subjects, as well as representatives from different sectors and backgrounds, including business owners, faith-based communities, public safety, education and parents.

They’re planning on offering training and other assistance to members who join.

“We wanted to build a coalition with members that are diverse and from different sectors,” Calderon said. “We wanted to make sure that we’re following and using the best practices when we’re building this type of organizations.”

Anyone interested in joining should reach out to Waterhouse by emailing her at kelly.waterhouse@westhartfordct.gov or by calling 860-561-7575.

The first meeting of the coalition will be held on Oct. 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. in room 24 of the Elmwood Community Center.

Connecticut Media Group