New Community Initiative Brings Addiction Services to the Streets of Stamford: ‘These Are Our Neighbors’


STAMFORD – Bonnie Kim Campbell looks down the city’s West Side, where she lived for the 66 years of her life, and sees a rough diamond.

For her, the West Side is a tight-knit and diverse community, many of which have called the neighborhood their home for generations. It is a place of culture, beauty and potential.

But she admits the neighborhood is not without its problems.

Campbell describes “scenes of public drunkenness and disarray,” which she says include naked individuals and public defecation that appears to plague parts of the West Side.

The problem has become so widespread that a local business owner, who did not wish to be named, said ambulances are being called in the Alden and Smith Street area – a place which police say is become an epicenter of drug use and homelessness for the area – about three times a day on average.

To meet the challenges, Campbell and fellow West Side activist Cynthia Bowser used their position on the town’s community advisory committee to forge an alliance with the Stamford Police Department and local social service providers to develop a solution that they believe avoids some of the pitfalls of previous efforts.

Their response is the recently launched Shoulder-to-Shoulder Initiative, a joint effort linking the Stamford Police Department and the Community Advisory Board with local social service providers like Building One Community and Liberation Programs, a nonprofit offering addiction treatment programs throughout Fairfield County, to try and bring resources directly to the hardest hit areas.

In the past, Campbell and Bowser say, they have seen police answer calls to drunk or intoxicated people to see people taken away in handcuffs. While both commend the police for their efforts to try to curb unsavory activity, they say they don’t believe such activity is a problem that can be resolved by the justice system.

“They are our neighbors, and they clearly suffer from behavioral, drug addiction and homelessness issues. We don’t want these people arrested, we want them to get the help they need, ”Campbell said.

With “Shoulder to Shoulder,” police and nonprofits are identifying known “hot spots” of drug use and homelessness on the West Side.

But instead of responding to hot spots with sirens and handcuffs, Deputy Police Chief Silas Redd said police are coming from an alternate mindset, which he hopes to address the underlying problem and not symptoms.

The Liberation Programs van can be found in Jackie Robinson Parks on Wednesdays and at the corner of Alden and Smith Streets on Thursdays, Young said. The van also makes similar stops in Bridgeport Monday through Friday and Norwalk on Tuesday.

To find out when the van might be in the area, log on to the Liberation Program website.

Liberation Programs also provides a confidential help line for people struggling with drug addiction at 203-278-1637 or 203-953-3357.

“We have to walk side by side to meet the needs of a segment of the community while also addressing the quality of life issues that this has brought to the community,” said Redd. “Having our agents come here and do some kind of enforcement action is not what we’re looking for. These people need resources, so the goal is to put them in touch with as many community providers who can provide them with what they need.

Once hot spots are identified, liberation programs partner with other local social service providers like Building One Community to travel to areas and try to connect individuals with resources.

The team travels to the scene in a van equipped with a “prescriber and recovery coach,” who can provide referrals for treatment, prescriptions for buprenorphine / suboxone, Narcan, syringe exchange and medication. ‘other resources.

“The overall goal is really for everyone who provides care in this community to come together and be able to provide that care and meet the people we are trying to reach where they are and connect them to the resources that are out there. are available to them, ”Maggie Young, recovery manager at Liberation Programs, said.

While the verdict on the program’s effectiveness has yet to be delivered, Young said she has already seen it make a difference in the weeks since its launch in mid-July.

“It’s a victory every time we talk to one person,” Young said.

For Bowser, the program not only marks the first step towards a true partnership between community members, nonprofits and institutions in the city, but also a step in the right direction for the West Side as a whole. .

“If we are to move forward, we really need to encourage the city to forge a formal collaborative partnership between the residents of the community, the Stamford Police Department and social service agencies,” she said. .


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