Connecting to Community >

Lyn Connery and student from the Middletown Press in 1990.


Providing assistance to Westbrook High School students

In the 1980s, Rushford concentrated its efforts on building two particular areas of addiction services — a budding recovery center and its prevention services programming. One program under the prevention umbrella was the Student Assistance Program, which started as a way to train teachers in area school systems on the signs of alcohol abuse, but has grown into so much more for Rushford student assistance counselor Lyn Connery.

Hired as a student assistance counselor in 1986, Connery has seen the program grow and flourish at Westbrook High School, where she has been based for all of her nearly 30 years.

“The title is the same, but the job has changed throughout the years,” Connery said. Student assistance programs were an outgrowth of a highly effective model created by Ellen Morehouse in Westchester County, New York in the early 1980s. The idea at that time was to train counselors to work with teachers looking for signs of alcohol abuse in high school-aged kids. Today, Connery’s job has expanded to provide a full range of substance abuse prevention and early intervention services.

“I see kids all day long,” Connery said. “With certain exceptions, what is shared with the student assistance counselor is confidential. They can talk about drugs, they can talk about their parents. They can talk about their teachers. It was a safe place. It still is.”

From substance abuse issues to family problems to cutting and eating disorders, Connery has spent decades building the trust of students, staff and the community.

“I talk to the PTOs. I talk to the Chamber of Commerce,” she said, providing information on prevention of bullying and substance use. “It’s the relationships in the community. It’s the relationships with people.”

It’s also about trust.

“They know they can trust me to work with them or get them the help they need,” she said. “Being around so long, it’s about the relationships I’ve developed and supporting the kids through difficult times.”

In the past 10 years, Connery’s outreach has turned to community leadership, as she works with town leaders to help infuse into existing town programs the assets identified by the Search Institute as necessary to the positive development of adolescents.

“There are 40 assets that help kids thrive,” Connery said. “They include family and neighborhood support, a caring school climate and general safety within the community.”

“The assets don’t focus on just high-risk kids. The focus is on what every kid needs to succeed. The more of these assets they have, the less substance abuse they have, the less truancy they have, the better grades they have, the better relationships they have.”

As for the future of Rushford’s prevention programming, Connery believes it is truly at the core of what Rushford does.

“I see prevention as an integral part of Rushford’s future,” she said. “The future is getting to kids young and having them understand how to make good choices. If we can help them navigate through, they’ll have a great future.”

Lyn Connery today.

Drugs wanted for disposal in Meriden

In August 2014, the Meriden Healthy Youth Coalition (MHYC), the Meriden Police Department, the MidState Chamber of Commerce and Rushford installed a prescription drop box at the Meriden Police Department Headquarters on West Main Street. This initiative is aimed at reducing substance abuse by providing a safe way for city residents to dispose of prescription drugs that are no longer needed or are outdated.

“Unfortunately, prescription drugs have become the target of theft and misuse, oftentimes by young people who have access to residential homes and apartments,” said Krystle Blake, Rushford prevention specialist and MHYC chairperson.

Meriden residents may dispose of their unwanted prescription drugs at this permanent prescription drop box located in the main lobby of the Meriden Police Department. With the installation of a prescription drop box, the City of Meriden Police Department is able to take control of and destroy unwanted or expired prescription drugs on a regular basis.

Cutting the ribbon on the Meriden prescription drop box in November 2014 are (L-R): Meriden Police Captain Michael Zakrzewski, Meriden Police Chief Jeffrey Cossette, Meriden Mayor Manuel A. Santos, Rushford Prevention Specialist Krystle Blake, Meriden City Councilor Miguel Castro, and MidState Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sean Moore.

Prevention raises awareness about bullying and drug use among youth

October 2014 was a busy month for the Rushford prevention program, as it includes both National Bullying Prevention Month, and Red Ribbon Week, which raises awareness about keeping America’s youth drug-free. To that end, Rushford’s prevention professionals were key participants in two events to raise awareness about these important issues.

On Oct. 22, Felicia Goodwine-Vaughters, Sheryl Sprague and Christine Culver were in attendance at Middlesex Community College for Unity Day 2014, a bully-prevention rally of nearly 150 high school and middle school students from the area wearing orange T-shirts proclaiming “I will be an agent of change” and “I’ve got your back.” Headlining the event was former UConn basketball star Donny Marshall. The rally was sponsored by the Community Foundation of Middlesex County’s Council of Business Partners, and is part of the No Bully Zone program supported by Rushford.

Rushford Rams in Action with Middletown Deputy Mayor Robert Santangelo and Rushford’s Felicia Goodwine-Vaughters (back right) proclaim Red Ribbon Week in Middletown.

On Oct. 23, Middletown’s Deputy Mayor Robert Santangelo met with 7th and 8th grade students attending Woodrow Wilson Middle School to read a proclamation from Mayor Daniel T. Drew that proclaimed October 23-31 as Red Ribbon Week in the City of Middletown. Felicia Goodwine-Vaughters from Rushford was in attendance.

Middletown students participating in Rams In Action, a peer leadership after-school program, organized Red Ribbon Week for the 9th year at Woodrow Wilson Middle School. Red Ribbon Week is now the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation, reaching millions of young people. The mission of the campaign is to present a unified and visible commitment towards creating a Drug-Free America. This year’s theme was “Love yourself! Be drug-free!”