WESTFIELD – The Westfield Senior Center hosted a well-attended forum of the Coalition on Outreach, Recovery and Education (CORE) Jan. 16.
CORE Coordinator Kathi Cotugno said over 70 community members attended, including residents, business owners, health care providers, educators, city officials, Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni and state Rep. John C. Velis.
Gail Gramarosa of the Collaborative Educational Service in Northampton facilitated the event.
“It was really interesting,” said Westfield Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr., who welcomed people to the forum and recognized former Mayor Brian P. Sullivan, who was also present, for starting the coalition in Westfield.
Humason also credited Cotugno for getting different groups working on the issue of substance abuse together. He said that she and other speakers presented a lot of data about substance use in the city, schools, and region-wide.
Humason said participants were asked if anyone present had been personally involved or knew of someone with substance abuse issues.
“Nearly every hand went up,” Humason said, adding that the problem reaches every demographic.
Following the speakers, roundtable discussions were hosted regarding community needs on substance use for youth and adults in the city. Cotugno said they will compile the responses and then look at their strengths and gaps in services for the Westfield community.
“Once we have this completed we will look at programming we can provide to the community, apply for grants regarding substance use education for our youth, grow our outreach programming and build our coalition. There were good discussions happening at the tables this morning and we’re excited to review those responses,” Cotugno said.
Westfield Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, a member of CORE, agreed.
“The forum was an excellent opportunity to bring community stakeholders together to focus on issues we all share and to begin developing additional strategies toward solutions aimed at combating the reasons behind substance abuse,” Czaporowski said.
“We want to make sure we hold the focus and keep this going. The problem isn’t going away,” Humason said, adding that the city needs to continue to look at ways to reduce the stigma of substance abuse, and connect people to services.
“I’m going to continue working with Kathi and members of CORE, schools, and public safety departments to make sure we continue to face this issue head on. We’re not doing it alone, and that’s good,” Humason said.