Drug Forum seeks solutions

LONDONDERRY - Tuesday night, residents of Londonderry and the surrounding areas came together for what Dr. Delores Bar beau, a physician with Neighborhood Connections, a local non-profit organization, called a work night. Two weeks ago, residents gathered at Flood Brook Elementary school to learn more about Vermont and specifically Londonderry's drug problem and also watched "The Hungry Heart," a documentary film about heroin use in Vermont.

"We had two nights of information ... tonight we're going to look at all that information, and all that information we carry inside our hearts, or our heads... the things we know and the emotions we feel about it and see what we can do," she said.

About 70 people came to try and figure out some concrete solutions to this diverse, multifaceted problem. After establishing ground rules, the group was broken into four groups to brainstorm ideas for possible solutions to the community's perceived drug problem. The areas the discussions were focused on were public safety, drug availability, parents and children and scarcity of resources.

Barbeau asked the group to be willing to change their opinion, really listen and not to be invested in being right.

"There is no black or white to most things in our lives, most things have a gray," she said.

Each group was tasked with discussing two of the four areas. Listening to the different groups discuss the issues, some things bubbled to the surface. The lack of policing in the area, no where for teenagers and young adults to congregate, lack of communication between parents and neighbors, and lack of economic development were all discussed by multiple groups. There were also heated discussions about removing drug dealers, as well as more presence by law enforcement in the areas known to be a place to purchase drugs.

After each group worked in their break-out sessions the whole group came back together to hear what had been discussed.

The solutions the groups came up with involved affordable resource for treatment, possibly bringing a regulated suboxone [a drug that can be used for opiate addiction and blocks the effects of opiates the body] clinic to town, getting a contract with either the sheriff's department or the town of Winhall to help police the area, passing legislation to better regulate prescription drugs and providing resources to parents and educators.

"Parents really need to come together, whether they do that on their own or we provide meetings where parents talk about drug issues or drinking, what are the signs, what are the things I'm struggling with at home, how do I talk to my child," one woman said her group came up with. "Not isolating yourself and thinking you're alone, because parents are not alone in this."

When discussing public safety, one of the groups suggested circulating a petition to call for a special town meeting to see if getting a contract with the state police or the sheriff's department would be feasible. Another potential solution presented to the group was to try and stop drugs before they came into the state.

Better communication was brought up, in regards to parents, schools and law enforcement, as a way to create a safer area.

"A better network of communication, such as knowing your neighbors, being able to talk to neighbors or parents being able to talk to each other about suspicious behavior with their kids," Blake Wyman, Londonderry resident said. "Or an 800 number to call and report suspicious behavior or a neighborhood watch."

Along with better communication, more than one group identified the need to introduce children to law enforcement at a younger age and to better trust police officers, instead of view them with fear or dislike.

Finally, the group held further discussion about what the community could do to work on making some of the solutions become actual concrete programs. Along with building concrete programs, some members of the audience wanted to involve some of the young people in the area in coming up with solutions. Next week, those interested will come together on Monday at Flood Brook to start designing these programs and try to develop solutions.


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