The club's representative to the community's Substance Abuse Action Committee reports to the club.

SAAC Report to the North Haven Rotary Club by George Guertin

I have been serving on the North Haven Substance Abuse Action Committee (SAAC) as the “representative from a civic organization” (i.e. the Rotary Club) for almost 2 years, and really enjoy the group.  Several of the functions that we perform include the semi-annual “drug take back program”; preparing public service videos which have been broadcast on NHTV, as well as viewed in local movie theaters; and presenting various awareness programs in the public schools.

In addition to the above, it was decided by the SAAC (which is led by Mike Freda) that we should apply for a federal grant to provide us with the necessary funding to continue and to expand the number and scope of programs used to educate and assist the youth of North Haven to stay away from illicit drugs.  The process to get federal grants is not easy, and many towns and cities are competing for a limited number of dollars.  If we do get a grant, it could mean thousands of dollars for up to a five year period.

The process for us started with the hiring of a professional grant writer who is familiar with the field of grant writing.  We then requested that North Haven students participate in a survey to determine the current climate of substance use and abuse in town.  Students in grades 7 through 12 were surveyed.  They were asked a series of questions relating to their attitude toward various substances, use/abuse of substances, family rules, etc.  The substances we were most interested in gathering information about included tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs; but the survey also asked questions about inhalants, cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy, and hallucinogens.

The multiple choice questions included the following examples: In the past 30 days, on how many days did you have one or more drinks of an alcoholic beverage?  How wrong do your parents feel it would be for you to smoke tobacco, drink alcoholic beverages, smoke marijuana, or use prescription drugs not prescribed for you? Have you ever used pain medication, steroids, downers, tranquilizers, uppers, or over-the-counter medications without your own prescription, or a doctor directing you to do so?

Approximately 2000 surveys were supplied to the two schools and approximately 1500 returns were used to compile the results.  Students could opt out through their parents’ direction.  Once all of the results are tabulated, we hope that we will find sufficient data to enable the grant writer to convince the federal authorities to provide us with a grant.  We are required to demonstrate in the grant that this community has a problem with substance abuse, that we have the people/organizations in place to affect a positive change, and that we have an available method to affect that positive change.

The Substance Abuse Action Committee is composed of representatives from various town departments, such as the fire and police, as well as representatives from Community Services, school leaders, religious leaders, civic organizations, and the First Selectman.