BENNINGTON >> What will it take to curb the local drug abuse crisis?
One common element of programs seen nationally and in one Vermont city 50 miles north is community involvement, according to Kiah Morris, director for the Alliance for Community Transformation (ACT).
"You can't just have the same 20 people at the table, or the people who are paid to be there, " Morris said. "We need true community involvement."
A day-long event Saturday called "Community ACTion DAY" aims to encourage that, by bringing residents and organizations to talk about best practices for dealing with drug addiction.
The event is free and open to the public and runs from 7:50 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge, 504 Main Street. People are asked to pre-register, but Morris said she expects people to register at the door. People can pre-register at: https://actbennington.org/communityaction
Organizers with Project VISION, a Rutland-based group that has been lauded for efforts in tackling crime and drugs, will speak about what worked for them, Morris said. ACT members will present what they've learned from attending national conferences, she said, and will also update attendees on local efforts by ACT and Project Catalyst, the local response to combating drug abuse. The day will culminate in a community service cleanup project in the downtown.
"What is important about these discussions, is that we already know, education programs are not enough," ACT Chairwoman Cindy Krautheim said in a release. "We cannot arrest our way to a solution. It is not just the presence of drugs in our communities that lead to use. It starts with our childhood experiences, connectedness we feel to our community, poverty, high-stress, increased depression and so much more."
Rutland's Project VISION is a coalition of more than 300 organizations — including social service and health agencies, to schools, business groups, faith-based groups, and law enforcement — as well as area volunteers.
Morris said she has attended meetings and called what the organization has accomplished in only a few years is "remarkable."
"There were 80 people there in the middle of a workday during lunchtime," Morris said recalling a meeting she attended. "People were dedicated and followed through."
Morris spoke about a need for finding ways Bennington-area community members can be involved with their communities. Not everyone can launch a major initiative or donate huge amounts of time, she said. But many can make a difference in smaller ways, like fundraising for new playground equipment or rounding up volunteers for a church event. The results from that type of work, she said, gives people real results of their work and helps them feel less victimized by issues facing the community.
For more information, visit www.actbennington.org/communityaction.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979