HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- The Hoosick Armory Youth Center and Community Coalition is holding a town hall meeting to continue a community conversation about heroin and drug abuse that started with an April meeting.

The community forum, titled "In Our Own Backyard, Part 2," will take place on Thursday, June 5, at the HAYC3 Armory, 80 Church St. at 7 p.m. The event was put together with the support of the Alliance for Community Transformation in Bennington to draw interest across communities. The first town hall meeting highlighted police efforts and the heroin issue as it relates locally and regionally.

ACT coordinator Kiah Morris said this town hall meeting will be geared toward preventative techniques and informing the public of available resources. She said it is important for Bennington residents to be a part of the discussion too. "This is work that has to do with our entire region, not just isolated areas This discussion will have a greater impact through community collaborations. It can provide opportunities to community members to be a part of the solution."

The first forum, at http://bit.ly/1nBrrPg, incorporated a first-hand account of somebody who struggled with addiction, in addition to a panel of experts in respective fields to speak to the effects and signs of drug abuse.

"This event is a reaction to the first town hall meeting, in which people left with a lot of questions," said HAYC3 executive director Aelish Nealon.


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"We didn't look at the medical aspect last time, so we will focus on community prevention, medical information and available resources."

Part two will ask for more feedback and questions by those members of the community that attend. Doctors, healthcare professionals, law enforcement and social workers will be available at the event for public comment and inquiry.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center communications director Kevin Robinson worked with HAYC3 to bring physicians to the event who are well versed in the abuse of opiates and other substances.

"We want to make sure people are there to answer some of the more nuance questions of opiate addiction that weren't covered last time," Robinson said.

Chief medical officer for Southwestern Vermont Health Care, Dr. Trey Dobson will be at the town hall meeting. He said it's important for people to understand what options there are for treatment, and that treatment and medications are specifically tailored to different people.

"It's very difficult for any community to be aware and support the effort of treating this problem," Dobson said. "It's not a Bennington or a Hoosick Falls problem, it is a regional and national problem."

Licensed private practice mental health counselor Chris Sherman spoke on the panel of the April meeting, in which he brushed on addiction treatment. He said he would like to focus more on the core reasons children and adults turn to the use of substances on Thursday. He said friends and neighbors should be willing to support each other no matter who is suffering. "I hope the audience is able to come away recognizing the strengths they may share with others to make us a stronger community."

Nealon said that awareness in the community is the first step, and second is to be sensitive to people struggling with addiction. She said there is a stigma associated with drug users that she hopes an open dialogue can dispel. "People often feel isolated, so community reinforcement is important."

Addiction psychiatrist Dr. Nels Kolster, Hoosick Falls assistant police chief Harold McClellan will also be at the event to answer questions. Individuals from the Rensselaer County Mental Health Department will be there to point residents in the direction for resources and treatment options.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg