Somers awarded federal drug-free community grant

The town received a federal drug-free community grant of $600,000 for the next five years, funding that officials say will be transformational.

Allison Maynard, Director of Human Services, met with the Board of Selectmen at a meeting in Town Hall last week to describe how the money will be used.

She said the funds will be available on Oct. 1. Once the five-year period is up, she said the town will be able to re-apply for the grant for another five years.

Maynard applied for the grant through Somers Comes Together, which is a coalition of community members whose charge is to increase awareness of the impact of substance abuse and support services available in the community, identify and implement prevention strategies, and reduce the stigma surrounding substance abuse.

She said the grant money will be used to hire a full-time prevention coordinator, who will work to implement alcohol and drug use reduction and prevention strategies among the town’s youth.

Selectman Robert Schmidt said he’d also like to see the funds go toward preventing fentanyl use.

One of the many benefits of the grant will be data collection through school surveys and police reports, said Selectman William Meier III. “If the data points us in other directions, we can modify the program.”

He said the grant money is an excellent opportunity to build a broad community coalition not just for preventing drug abuse but also for addressing mental health, health care systems, businesses, and faith-based organizations.

“It’s transformational for a town like Somers to bring this amount of money into the community and do this much,” Meier said. “The grant process is so competitive that for us to write and get a grant like this is a big deal.”

Somers is among three communities in Connecticut to receive the grant, along with Torrington and Naugatuck.