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They may not look like superheroes, but The Newtown Parent Connection will be hosting two of the nation’s most renowned addiction prevention advocates for a series of workshops and a free public presentation in an effort to minimize the impact of Connecticut’s opioid epidemic — which took more than 900 lives in the state last year.
In a three-day community event, March 27 to 29, Parent Connection, Inc will welcome former Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Robert Stutman, and the Honorable Jodi Debbrecht Switalski to empower and educate parents, students, administrators, law enforcement, and medical professionals with the most current scientific research and knowledge available.
The goal, according to Parent Connection founder and Newtown resident Dorrie Carolan, is to “protect our families, our communities, and our work environments from the greatest public health issue of our time.”
Mr Stutman and Judge Switalski will also be conducting talks and workshops at Newtown Middle School on March 27, and earlier on March 28, they will be at Newtown High School conducting a focus group and meeting with administrators, she said.
“Not My Kid, Not My Community,” the parent component of Mr Stutman and Judge Switalski’s program, will take place on Tuesday, March 28, from 7 to 9 pm, at the middle school, 11 Queen Street.
The event will cover what kids are really saying, the effects of drugs and alcohol, warning signs of abuse, and effective strategies for dealing with substance abuse. All community members are invited to attend the free event.
“This is one of the key components of their visit,” Ms Carolan said. “During our forums, we’re working with the parents and loved ones who are in the depths of dealing with a son or daughter in the grips of a drug addiction. But we also need to be concerned about these kids who are socializing with them, and getting into cars they may be driving while they’re high. This is a community problem and we need to band together to face it.”
For more than 25 years, Judge Switalski has been on the front lines of mid-America pioneering an early state response to synthetic drugs and the opioid epidemic, orchestrating town hall forums and seminars in schools and private institutions, reaching out to judges, correction officers, medical professionals, and more.
She also used the power of her judicial seat to make a difference, operating highly successful sobriety, drug, and domestic violence courts. She founded a regional veterans treatment court in the State of Michigan, extending this education and advocacy to a new class of individuals — our heroes, the men and women returning from military service.
“Kids who are using drugs have no idea what they are taking and have no room for mistakes. The reality is that the chemicals used are becoming more intense and dealers are getting smarter. Kids are getting slipped synthetic drugs and don’t even know it,” said Judge Switalski.
She told The Newtown Bee that she and her partner are so successful because they command attention first with their credentials, but then build trust through a very empathetic and understanding presentation that is adjusted to appeal to young people of various ages.
“I want to encourage your readers to understand that love isn’t going to fix this problem,” Judge Switalski said. “We all love our kids, but we have to understand from their perspective — and we need to get good information as parents and educators, and judges, and law enforcement. There really isn’t a single profession that is exempt from the ability to make a difference in this opioid epidemic. We think kids have a lot of information about drugs, but most of it is wrong.”
Based on her 25 years as a former violent felony assistant prosecutor, child protection worker, and district court judge, Judge Switalski has first-hand experience dealing with the issues facing youth today.
Mr Stutman also put in a quarter century of service culminating as the head of DEA’s largest office in the world in New York City for six years. He has appeared on national television programs and is the former drug consultant for both CBS and PBS.
He has traveled with the DEA to 73 countries and has met and discussed drugs with three sitting presidents — George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. And as one of America’s highest profile drug busters, Mr Stutman was so visible that the Columbian Cartel had, at one point, targeted him for assassination.
“Most adults know almost nothing about the world of kids and drugs,” said Mr Stutman. “Drugs will go on destroying our young people if we continue to fail to deal with abuse and make substantial change.”
Mr Stutman and Judge Switalski both believe that the single most effective way to keep kids from getting their hands on the first doses of drugs that could and often lead to addiction is by locking them up in a secure lock-box or safe. He is also seeing two other main culprits that Mr Stutman believes provides the gateway to so many addictions — wisdom teeth and sports injuries.
“When Jodi and I ask these kids how did the addiction start, the two most frequent answers are wisdom teeth and sports injuries,” he said. “They look us in the eye, and say that ‘nobody ever told us this stuff is addicting.’ And sometimes it makes you want to cry. There are not bad kids, they are good kids getting sucked into a disease — and it is a disease as much as diabetes. But so often the resources of time and money are not available to cure this disease, so it keeps getting worse.”
Those who attend any of The Stutman Switalski Group’s community programs will walk away with the tools to deal with this issue. It is about being proactive, having the truth, and equipping groups with the tools they need to make an impact against the drug epidemic now, Ms Carolan said.
The program is funded by sponsor Solo Technology Holdings, LLC, creator of the iKeyp, the first smartphone-enabled personal safe designed to safeguard prescription medications. Five iKeyp safes will also be raffled among the first 100 people to sign up for the “Not My Kid, Not My Community” evening program.
“We believe that knowledge is power, and by becoming better informed, we can begin to take the steps necessary to prevent or treat the problem,” Ms Carolan said. “With Robert and Judge Jodi’s help and the support of Solo Technology Holdings, we believe we can turn it around and enact positive change.”
For more information or to register for the “Not My Kid, Not My Community” evening program, contact Dorrie Carolan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Stutman Switalski Group, visit thestutmanswitalskigroup.com.
Newtown Parent Connection, Inc, a nonprofit organization, has been educating and empowering the local community in the prevention of substance abuse since 1993. For more information, visit www.newtownparentconnection.org.