By ALANA PERSSON, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Within the city, there is an affliction that is striking the rich and the poor, youth and adults, people of all races, genders and religious affiliations. It is a disease that knows no boundaries and is rampant within the community. However, there are people within all sectors of the city who are working to fight the battle against substance use disorder, one being the grassroots organization Stand Up Laconia.
For the past five years, Stand Up Laconia has taken shape as a grassroots organization that is actively working to tackle the substance misuse epidemic that is present within the city of Laconia. The group began operating as Stand Up Laconia in 2011 under the mission of effectively and compassionately confronting the causes and consequences of substance misuse by advocating for prevention, intervention, treatment and recover. Working to put this mission statement into action the group appointed Clare Persson as chairman and began to meet regularly, now including dozens of community members and businesses within the city.
"Stand Up Laconia has so much diversity that is involved. People come from all types of backgrounds and committees, which helps it better represent the community," said Shaun Dutile, a local Christian counselor and minister. "Stand Up Laconia has the strongest collective voice that is able to speak out against the drug issue within the city from all angles involved."
All hoping to make the city a better place to life, community members, business owners, parents of addicts, and recovering addicts have actively been helping facilitate educational workshops, run tables at city events such as National Night Out, and speak at meetings to raise awareness. This past spring, the group was able to bring in nationally acclaimed speaker and recovering drug addict Richard Farrell, who was able to address the youth in the community of the realities that come with substance misuse. Additional speakers and seminars focused on youth are to be scheduled for the upcoming school year, which community members said they find very important in making a lasting impact.
"The group wants to make certain that our young students coming up are very aware of what they are facing going forward, as well as help adults who are struggling with the illness," said community member Dick Castrucci, commenting on the actions the group has been taking. "We can't tell people, 'Not in my backyard, please leave.' We just can't do that."
Brian Loanes, executive director of the Belknap County Restorative Justice/Court Diversion, agrees with Castrucci that we can't just ignore the issue in the city. Not only did Loanes appreciate the push for education and awareness the group was bringing to the city, but also the political influence Stand Up Laconia has on lawmakers and elected officials in the city. Stand Up Laconia members have spoken at the State House, which has helped contribute to the birth of Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region, and also spoke on behalf of Community Corrections Center in Laconia, which is now currently under construction. This center will is planned to be opened in June of 2017 and will help provide treatment within the jail.
The collaboration of legislation, community members and businesses is looking to be continued in order to get more support and funding for bigger initiatives. Currently, a business model to raise money for the group is currently being created, and this week a Strategic Prevention Framework workshop is to be held discussing how to best apply for the Drug Free Community Grant, which would give the city $100,000 in federal funding to tackle substance misuse issues within the community for a period of five years. With this funding, the organization would be able to increase its prevention and intervention initiatives, as well as hire a full-time coordinator for the organization.
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