Commentary: Prevention partners with the police

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Megan Albanese, STEPS Coalition outreach manager

There are many ways the Southington Police Department (SPD) helps keep our Southington community safe. Through their proactive approach, the SPD works closely with the STEPS Coalition to make substance misuse prevention a priority here in Southington. We are extremely thankful for this partnership and to Chief Jack Daly, Deputy Chief Bill Palmieri and the entire SPD for their support of the coalition and our prevention work.

Because of the partnership with the SPD, the STEPS Coalition has been able to further protect our Southington youth from substance misuse through reducing access, education and policy change. The SPD demonstrates the true meaning of community policing through building relationships and participating in community forums and panels to further safeguard Southington residents with education and pertinent information.

By housing the prescription medication drop box in the police headquarters lobby at 69 Lazy Ln., the SPD is helping reduce access to unused or unwanted prescription medication; helping prevent it from ending up in the wrong hands. Some acceptable items for the drop box include both liquid and solid prescription drugs and medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, samples, pet medicines, ointments and lotions.

The drop box does not accept needles, thermometers, hydrogen peroxide, aerosol canisters and illegal drugs. All medicines are disposed of by incineration through a partnership with Covanta. In 2019, the permanent medication drop box was emptied 48 times, collecting 1,426 pounds of medication; a 6.9% increase from 2018.

STEPS and the Southington police have partnered to add electronic cigarette and vaping material into the D.A.R.E. program. It is the hope that through educating students at an early age about the dangers of drugs and alcohol that they will be less likely to engage in these types of risk-taking behavior.

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STEPS (Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success)
200 North Main St., Southington, CT 06489
Tel: (860) 276-6285

The Southington police have been instrumental in town policy changes and also the enforcement of a policy once it has been changed; with the most recent policy change being Tobacco 21. In May of 2019, Southington was the fourth municipality in Connecticut to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco or nicotine products from 18 to 21 (including all e-cigarette and vaping products). The State of Connecticut followed in October 2019, with the nation finally joining in with the age change just this past month.

With the help of the SPD and compliance checks, we are able to ensure that merchants in Southington are only selling tobacco and nicotine products to people of legal age. The same goes for alcohol. Through compliance checks, merchants are tested to make sure they are following federal, state and local laws. Compliance checks are a tool law enforcement can use to reduce the availability of dangerous products to underage youth from commercial sources such as bars, restaurants, liquor stores, grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations.

By preventing youth access from commercial sources, communities can reduce the negative consequences associated with underage drinking and smoking, thereby creating a safer, healthier environment for their youth.

Thank you, Southington police, for keeping our community safe and we truly value our partnership.

Megan Albanese is the Southington STEPS Coalition outreach coordinator. She can be reached at (860) 276-6281 or albanesem@southington.org.