CHATHAM–The Chatham Central School District has been hosting a group of local residents, elected officials and representatives from county organizations to talk about addiction in the community. So far the group has met three times, and at the most recent meeting on July 26 the local press was invited as the group made plans to expand and hone its message.
A letter from Chatham Superintendent of Schools Cheryl Nuciforo inviting people to join the group says that the original meeting was called “The Addiction Crisis: Planning a Community Response.” People were invited “because of your role in an organization that supports students or the community or because someone gave us your name as a person who might have a helpful perspective.” In that letter and in emails, Ms. Nuciforo calls the meetings “a conversation” about drug issues, especially opioids, in the community.
Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) attended last week’s meeting, saying, “I appreciate and commend what you are doing.” She represents the parts of the Village of Chatham and the Chatham Central School District that lie in the Town of Ghent.
Ms. Nuciforo told Ms. Barrett that though the school was hosting the meeting in the high school library, the group is a community effort. “This is a Chatham community thing,” the superintendent said.
Several school board members along with Chatham Town Board member John Wapner were at the meeting. Chatham Village Police Chief Peter Volkmann and two of his officers were also there to talk about their Chatham Cares 4U program to get people with addiction issues into recovery. Chatham Mayor Tom Curran attended the meeting as well. Representative county’s Mental Health Clinic and Twin County Recovery Services were also at the meeting, as well as educators from Catholic Charities, which runs some of the drug education programs in the Chatham School District and other local schools.
Stephanie Campbell, director of policy for the Friends of Recovery and a former Chatham High School teacher, conducted the meeting. The group plans to put together a steering committee to focus the agenda and find a name. The group is now being informally called the Chatham Drug Addiction Community. Group members also hope to set monthly meetings and invite in more people from the wider community.
“If we really want to get this work done, we need more people,” said Chatham school board member Teri Conte. She talked about including people from the Ichabod Crane and the New Lebanon school districts.
The group discussed showing movie called “The Anonymous People” at the high school this September with a program about the film. It is a documentary about recovery from alcohol and drug additions.
Laurie Quinn talked to the group about social media, saying that another group she is involved with in Chatham had started a Facebook page that she still posts to. She said the page could be a way to circulate information about the new group. The page is called Chatham Drug Awareness Group and can be found at facebook.com/communitydrugawarenesscharthamny.
Chief Volkmann talked about needing volunteer “angels” to help with the Chatham Cares 4U program. He said that since the program was started in mid-July, his officers have helped four people get treatment, but he said it has not been easy finding available openings in the programs and working within this state’s regulations.
“We have learned the hard way about New York,” he said. He said the police cannot send anyone on Medicaid to treatment centers outside the state and that some programs require a person to detox before going into rehabilitation so when they come to the police for help, if they are on drugs they have to wait 24 hours.
He said that he plans to have a training for the angels once they have a few more volunteers. But he said his officers have been working long hours to get people the help they need. Resident Peter Meyers, a retired drug treatment counselor said that he would volunteer time to train the angels.
Chief Volkmann also asked that community members who have lost a loved-one to drug addiction to bring a picture to the Police Department so they can post it for the officers to see. “We need to see real people,” who have succumbed to addiction, he said.
“Those who have died will never be forgotten,” he said.
The group will meet again in August at the high school and will appoint the steering committee.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email