The Downtown Wooster Square community members sat down to talk about solutions Tuesday after more than 100 drug overdoses in just a few days at the New Haven Green.
The consensus among people at the meeting was that last week’s overdoses were something of a reckoning moment for the situation on the Green. Community members told NBC Connecticut they want to work together and with city leaders while showing compassion for those who have nowhere else to go.
“There’s a clear hunger for a community forum. A public community forum for people to talk to us,” said Caroline Smith, the chair of the Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team.
Leaders are looking for a way to help the community’s most vulnerable – the people who overdosed on K2 last week and still battle addiction today.
“The problems that we experienced last week are not new,” said Elsie Chapman.
Chapman, a longtime resident and community leader said the city needs more resources.
“Everybody knows that New Haven is the place where so often people are brought because New Haven has such a big heart and provides so many services,” Chapman said.
The Green has long been a gathering point for those struggling with substance abuse in New Haven, as well as those from surrounding cities and towns, because of the convergence of mass transit, the location of social services offices and the methadone treatment facilities. The mayor’s representative at the meeting said last week’s events reenergized the city’s commitment to providing services to those in need, where they are.
“This is clearly a sobering moment when you have this many overdoses and this many people affected….It’s going to continue to be a place where people do need some services and we want to make sure those are quick and as direct to serve their needs as possible,” said Michael Harris, special assistant to Mayor Toni Harp.
The city hopes to provide services like street psychiatrists, medical professionals and recovery coaches on the Green.
Business owners at the meeting said in addition to treatment, people who choose to come to the Green need alternatives that perhaps the greater community could come together to create.
“Do we have any incentives to hire people that are in active recovery? It’s hard for folks who have a record or are getting out of prison and they’re in treatment to get a job. That gets in the way of a lot of things,” said Adam Christoferson of Musical Intervention. “There’s so much more opportunity for people if they’re given a space to thrive in. “
Leaders of the meeting said this is just the beginning of meetings for ongoing work they want to improve on the Green to help those who gather there.