DART is a grassroots coalition comprised of approximately 30 community members, health care providers, teachers, counselors, executives and representatives from a variety of organizations working to tackle substance abuse and recovery in our community. The coalition meets on a monthly basis to discuss the needs of the community surrounding these issues.
The idea for DART was seeded in 2000 during a community screening and subsequent panel discussion of a documentary called The War on Drugs. The group worked on various projects to bring our community together in the fight against addiction. Following the November 2013 release of local producer Bess O’Brien’s film Hungry Heart, a documentary showing the unfortunate path of an addict’s life, the community once again convened to address substance abuse issues, this time as DART 2.0. It was quickly identified that unless a strong emphasis was placed on the basic needs in an individual’s life – such as housing, food, and safety – recovery was routinely unsuccessful. DART brings the community and its partners together to radically and holistically address this public health concern.
- To encourage all facets of our community to participate openly and honestly in dialogue regarding gaps in service and pathways to recovery.
- To organize community action, including the participation of area agencies, churches, the medical and mental health providers, and others to secure adequate resources for the recovery of individuals and their families.
- To influence policy makers to return to a public health model rather than the current model of punishment and criminalization.
- To advocate for public policies and funding that supports local community independence and peer-led recovery.
- To spread our message of a compassionate response to addiction and recovery to other communities around the state, sharing what works, and thus developing a network of compassionate action and community unity.
Staff from the St. Johnsbury Local Health Office actively participate in DART activities and sit on the coalition’s Steering Committee. We provide technical assistance and information on new programs and grant opportunities, including the recently awarded Regional Prevention Partnerships (RPP) grant. RPP is a federal grant received by the St. Johnsbury Local Health Office and is managed by Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) in collaboration with DART to ensure prevention programs reach as many people as possible.
The coalition works hard to creatively address addiction and recovery in our community. Below are two examples of DART’s efforts:
- DART oversaw the creation of a program to help with the disposal of discarded needles. Residents in the St. Johnsbury area who come across a needle can call 802-748-9061 or 802-345-4601, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Volunteers are dispatched from ‘dawn to dusk’ to the site to safely retrieve the needle. DART worked with VTCares to facilitate safety trainings for the volunteers and continues to work with them to recruit new volunteers.
- With the help of DART, those wanting assistance with recovery can call a pager number if they need a ride to the Kingdom Recovery Center from the emergency department, town offices, Northeast Regional Correctional Facility or the court. Coaching staff at the Kingdom Recovery Center can help assist with recovery steps, transportation or can simply lend a listening ear.
DART supports a variety of organizations whose missions focus on the overall health and wellness of our community, including supporting those who struggle with addiction and the challenges of recovery. Work groups address issues such as safe housing, sober housing, warming shelters, prevention strategies, hunger, and educating the community. Educational opportunities are presented and made available to schools and other organizations as requested.
DART does not work in isolation. The support of our local businesses, organizations and the willpower of our community makes this coalition strong. For more information regarding DART, contact Susan Cherry.