PRIDE pg 1 11-1-18

caption, page 6:

Drug Take Back
Putnam PRIDE and the Putnam Police Department held a drug take back event at the Riverview Marketplace Oct. 27. Left to right: Putnam Police Officer Joe Sharkey, Romeo Blackmar, PRIDE coordinator; and Joy Blackmar. Linda Lemmon photo.

By Linda Lemmon
Town Crier Editor
As the Putnam PRIDE coalition takes its next step with its upcoming merger with the Hale YMCA, its programs are a proud monument of more than 10 years of hard work.
The town's PRIDE donations account, which totals more than  $13,000, is on the agenda for a special town meeting Nov. 5. Electors are being asked to authorize the transfer of the donations account to the Hale YMCA. 
Putnam PRIDE Coordinator Romeo Blackmar said: "Our biggest anticipated change for the future (with Hale YMCA) is expanding the reach of substance abuse prevention to as many communities as possible in the Quiet Corner.  It is our hope and desire to continue to carry the message that 'Prevention is Key' to saving the lives of our children … one child at a time."
Blackmar said PRIDE was established under the Drug Free Communities Grant in October of 2006 for the first cycle of funding for five years ending in September of 2011.  After two years of not qualifying for a second five years of DFC funding, PRIDE finally was able to secure the second cycle of funding starting October 2013 and ending Sept. 2018.
Funding has run out and the Drug Free Community Grant is no longer renewable under the current legislation he said, "so PRIDE needed to join with another nonprofit organization and the YMCA stepped up and offered to adopt the PRIDE mission as part of the YMCA’s goals."
If, and when, the town voters approve of the transfer of the PRIDE donation account, the YMCA will become fully responsible for the coalition, he added.  Blackmar said plans for completing the takeover of PRIDE are still not 100 percent clear right now.  "We will continue to meet with the executive director of the Hale YMCA with a 'Task Force' to be formed to make the necessary arrangements to complete the merger. " Blackmar said he is now acting as the coalition liaison to the Y in assisting the transition.
Blackmar is proud of several programs Putnam PRIDE spearheaded. In fact, PRIDE twice garnered national recognition. Blackmar said: "PRIDE has been cited nationally by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).  In 2015 we were one of the first coalitions to conduct Mobile Drug Take Backs in our Senior and Public Housing units.  PRIDE was selected as one of only 10 presenters at the CADCA Conference in Washington D.C. 'Ideas Fair' for our Mobile Drug Take Back campaign.  In 2017 PRIDE was cited as a 'Noteworthy Entry' in the 'Know More Before You Pour' Social Media Competition conducted by CADCA and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  This campaign 'There are no “Apps” for Saving Their Lives' was a product of several members of our local media partnerships."
Blackmar said some of the PRIDE initiatives to reduce and eliminate underage drinking, tobacco, marijuana and other drug use will continue to be targeted in the seven towns that are currently being served by the YMCA.  "The events that PRIDE has been part of in the past like Particle Accelerator, Drug Take Back Days, Healthy Kids Day, Family Day celebration, Red Ribbon Week… are all initiatives that we would like to see continued and expanded under the new leadership of the YMCA," he said.
He added: "Our Drug Take Backs have been a proven success. At one point 2015-16 PRIDE was the only Drug Free Community Coalition in the state to have all three of the DFC Grant programs at the same time.  We were able to secure a four-year STOP ACT Grant in 2012 and a two-year DFC Mentoring Grant in 2015-16 to become a Mentor to the Griswold PRIDE Coalition.  In that same year our  PRIDE Logo was adopted by the Windham DFC Coalition as part of their restructuring.
"We also have seen a steady reduction in the use of alcohol and tobacco products by our targeted age group of youth ages 12-17.  In conjunction with the Putnam Police  Department and the State Liquor and Tobacco Control, we have seen fewer violations of sales to minors in the community.  One of the major initiatives started back in 2009 was the elimination of sales of drug paraphernalia in gas stations and stores.  This was a program started by former Police Chief Rick Hayes and the Putnam Business Association in cooperation with PRIDE.  Making Putnam a 'Safe and Friendly”' community was part of the ongoing Community Policing policies established by Chief Hayes."
The Drug Take Back program is held twice a year, even if the DEA did not sponsor them, he said. PRIDE and the Putnam Police Department were at the Riverview Marketplace Oct. 27. Folks in 30 cars turned in a little more than 30 pounds of prescription drugs. That's the lowest amount collected, but Blackmar blames the wicked weather.  The DEA Drug Take Back started here in September 2010. He said Putnam PRIDE has had a total of 17. The average take back is 150 pounds. In total, Take Back days have brought in little more than 2,500 pounds and the Prescription Drug Box at the Putnam Police Department lobby has taken in 3,500 pounds since it was installed in May 2013, Blackmar said.  So the total collected is 6,000 pounds. "We haven’t included the P.D. drop box for this year, but on average they are getting 40-60 pounds every two months.  (About 500-750 lbs. in the take back box alone every year.)" he said.
Blackmar has served as PRIDE coordinator since February of 2009 until October of 2011, when funding ran out the first time.  From 2011-2013 he served as a volunteer Coalition chairman.   In 2013 he was rehired as coordinator and has served in that capacity until the grant ended in September.   Blackmar said: "Over the past 12 years more than 75 adults and some 425 students have participated in one way or another with PRIDE and for that I will always be grateful for their contributions in making Putnam 'A Safer, Friendlier and Healthier' Community. "

Blackmar said  the reasons so many prescriptions are dropped off are: Overprescribing of medications in the past has been a source of the large amounts being collected both on Take Back and in the P.D. Box.  and a lot of people have been holding onto medications that have expired or have had adverse reactions to them and are discarding them soon after having a reaction.


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