HUDSON — Community leaders in Hudson are working to create a new wrap-around program to help kids and relatives impacted by the opioid epidemic, with hopes to launch before the next school year.
Selectman David Morin said he brought the group of school and town officials and community volunteers together initially in April to address what he and other town officials saw as a rise in children orphaned by overdoses, or left in the care of relatives because their parents are struggling with a substance use disorder or are incarcerated for drug-related offenses.
Morin said he saw the problem when he was a firefighter.
“The problem kept growing and growing,” he said.
Sarah Hilton, a student and family interventionist who works with elementary school students in Hudson, said children are coming to Hudson from other New Hampshire towns and cities like Nashua, or from Massachusetts, when they are placed with relatives like grandparents or aunts and uncles.
She said the number of students in the schools who have been negatively impacted by the opioid epidemic is significant.
“It’s more widespread than I think anyone realizes,” Hilton said.
The program is called “Hudson Connect the Dots,” and the idea is to help families by connecting them to financial, material, emotional and medical resources, among other services. The community organization would team up to devise action plans for each child and family impacted by the addiction crisis and partner with area resources that can help.
Hilton said the group is also working to establish a monthly support group for relative caregivers to give them a place where they can connect with one another, access resources and get questions answered.
The group is working on creating a simple application form and a process for families to contact the program that will go live soon on town and school websites and social media.
Initially, Morin thought it would take a year or longer to get a program in place to provide resources to impacted families, but he said the organizing committee has worked hard in the past few months.
“Hopefully, next month we can put this in place,” Morin said.
The committee held its fourth meeting Tuesday at Hills House near Alvirne High School. Members included Morin, Hilton, Superintendent Larry Russell, Police Chief William Avery, Capt. David Cayot, officer Jason Downey, town human services specialist Kathy Wilson, victim witness advocate Jeri Cloutier and school district outreach coordinator Kerry Durso.
Juvenile probation officers and stakeholders from the Hudson Fire Department and the state Division of Children, Youth and Families have worked with the committee to help craft the program.
On Tuesday, Janail Archer, an individual services director at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua met with the committee to share some of the programs that they offer for area youth, particularly a camp program that is targeted to kids aged 8 to 12 and 13 to 19 who have been negatively impacted by the opioid epidemic.
She said Camp Mariposa takes place over a three-day weekend once a month at the Barbara C. Harris Camp & Conference Center in Greenfield. It’s covered by an annual $35 membership fee, which Archer said she can waive in certain cases.
On average, they see about 40 kids in the younger age group, and about 20 teens attending the camp, Archer said.
Year round, the Boys & Girls Club facility in Nashua has two licensed clinicians on staff funded by Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants, which Archer said are at the disposal of kids in need without appointments.
Archer said the club and Camp Mariposa gets children referred from DCYF, counseling programs and schools in the area. Kids don’t have to be a resident of Nashua to be a club member, but transportation services are limited to Nashua.
“But we’re willing to work that out if that’s a great need from Hudson,” Archer said.
The committee plans to meet again Aug. 13.