Government Police/Fire

West Hartford To Hold Wellness Resource Fair and Drug Take Back Events at Charter Oak International Academy

National Drug Take Back Day is April 30, and a wellness resource fair will be held at the same time at Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford.

By Ronni Newton

Various town departments and organizations will be working in collaboration to raise awareness about mental health and substance abuse at a combination of wellness-related events scheduled for Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. unit 2 p.m. at Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford.

The West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District and the West Hartford Police Department will be holding the twice-yearly National Take Back Day effort on Saturday, collecting expired and unneeded over-the-counter and prescription medications, and the West Hartford Prevention Partnership (WHPP) and West Hartford Social Services will also be holding a Wellness Resource Fair where attendees can access resources regarding mental health as well as the prevention, intervention, and treatment of substance abuse and problem gambling.

Along with the Wellness Resource Fair, WHPP will also provide hands-on training in Narcan administration as well as “QPR” suicide prevention.

QPR suicide prevention training includes learning how to detect warning signs of suicide and how to obtain proper assistance for someone in crisis. The three elements that comprise QPR include:

  • “Question” a person about suicide;
  • “Persuade” the person to get help; and
  • “Refer” the person to an appropriate resource

The Narcan training addresses how to prevent overdoses and recognize the signs and symptoms of opioid overdose, and how to administer Narcan. The training will include an overview of the Good Samaritan law, and participants will also learn where to find additional information as well as resources.

Those participating in the QPR and Narcan training must be at least 18 years old and should register through this link. A Narcan kit will be distributed to registrants.

“We’re really excited about this Saturday,” said Astrid Calderon, manager of West Hartford Social Services.

“The pandemic has impacted mental health for everyone,” said Kelly Waterhouse, a social worker and Youth Services Bureau coordinator for the town who is working to reinvigorate the West Hartford Prevention Partnership, which has hasn’t been active in recent years. While Waterhouse’s primary responsibility is providing mental health support for the town’s youth, the pandemic has impacted people of all ages, she said, and there has been a marked increase in substance abuse among adults.

Last year the WHPP conducted a community health survey, which indicate a “lack of really knowing what the resources are” as a key concern among respondents. The Wellness Resource Fair, which already has more than 40 vendors registered to participate, will address that need.

“Most are local, some are regional or statewide,” Waterhouse said. The Change the Script Resource Van will be on site, and some of the organizations that will be participating include Amplify, the Village for Families and Children, The Bridge Family Center, Parents Against Vaping, and other agencies focused on domestic violence and substance abuse.

Holding the Wellness Resource Fair and training in conjunction with National Take Back Day was a natural collaboration, Waterhouse said. “We already knew that was a national event that was happening,” she said, with the Take Back Day scheduled well in advance. She said Social Services and the WHPP connected with the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District and decided it made sense to promote getting substances out of the home and prevention at the same tie.

The goal of the resource fair is to reach out to the community as a reminder that they are not alone, and to provide access to support.

The 90-minute training program on both QPR and Narcan will take place from 10 until 11:30 a.m., Waterhouse said, and the Wellness Resource Fair will follow from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Drug Take Back Day will run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

At Take Back Day, accepted items include prescription and over-the-counter dosage medications including tablets, capsules, vaping products, and liquids. Intra-venous solutions, injectable medicines, Epi-pens, and needles will not be accepted.

Charter Oak International Academy is located at 425 Oakwood Ave., West Hartford. Enter through the Flatbush Avenue parking lot.

The WHPP will be be involved in additional activities, including holding two other QPR and Narcan training sessions, scheduled for May 4 and 5. The Wednesday, May 4 session will be conducted in Spanish and will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Elmwood Community Center, and Waterhouse said she will be conducting a third training at West Hartford Town Hall on Thursday, May 5, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Details and a QR code that links to the registration can be found on the PDF below.

As part of National Prevention Week, May 8-14, WHPP will also be sponsoring “A Mother’s Story,” a free virtual presentation and parenting workshop with The Courage to Speak Foundation. The focus of the program is “education and awareness for parents so they can talk to their children about substances,” Waterhouse said. The PDF below includes additional information as well as the QR code linked to registration.

Additional National Prevention Week activities can be found on the WHPP web page on the town’s website and on the WHPP Facebook page as well as the West Hartford Social Services Facebook page.

“We’re really trying to promote and grow the WHPP,” Waterhouse said, to expand its membership and leadership, to “effectively and sustainably prevent substance abuse, promote mental health, and increase access to and knowledge of substance abuse and mental health services.”

Calderon said the goal for the group is to have it be a “wheel of community,” to have representatives of different ages and sectors.

“People don’t have to have any area of expertise” to join the WHPP, Waterhouse said. Most people know someone who has struggled with addiction and have a personal connection. “We are looking for all ages, too. This encompasses the lifespan.”

For more information on Take Back Day, contact the Health District at 860-561-7900 or the West Hartford Police Department at 860-570-8845. For more information on the Wellness Fair, contact the Town of West Hartford Social Services at 860-561-7561 or 860-561-7575.

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