Bellows Falls Trustees discuss opioid settlement

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, May 9, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed the opioid settlement money awarded to the village with Parks Place Community Resource Center and some of their host agencies.

Bellows Falls, Vt. Photo by Amanda Wedegis

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup explained that the village had so far received payments from manufacturers and distributors. He said for the board’s information, the village has received $19,433 to date, and anticipates more payments.

Jennifer Tolaro-Heidbrink, Executive Director of Parks Place, said that Parks Place hosts 19 agencies – four full-time and 15 part-time tenants. Tolaro-Heidbrink explained Parks Place’s request for $12,898.32 would be used to help some of these agencies enhance programming. She then introduced three of the agencies’ directors.

Mike Johnson, of Turning Point South, works in Springfield and the Carriage House at Parks Place. He said in Springfield they work with the police department, EMS, and hospitals with overdose response. Johnson said with the budgeted request, they would be able to add staff in Bellows Falls, keeping a part-time position on a regular basis.

Mike Cancellieri, founder of Front Lines Foundations of North America, has an office in the Greater Rockingham Area Services (GRAS) building at 1 Hospital Court. Cancellieri works with veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) to give them resiliency and coping skills. The funding, he explained, will pay for two trainings. He said they teach about long-term trauma and how the body and mind process stress, and how to mitigate stress with long-term practices of mindfulness and meditation.

Greater Falls Connections (GFC) Director Neil Allen said they had recently replaced Laura Schairbaum as director. Allen’s request would pay for GFC to become certified as a prevention specialist. They said it takes 175 hours of training for the certification.

When asked what areas these organizations cover, Tolaro-Heidbrink said the Greater Rockingham area, including Saxtons River, Grafton, Athens, and Westminster in Vermont; and in New Hampshire, both Walpole and North Walpole.

Trustee Jeff Dunbar asked if these would be new positions that would need annual funding. Johnson explained that the requested funding would pay for the part-time position at Turning Point South until other funding was secured. The other agencies would be using the funds to enhance programming.

Dunbar thanked each organization’s director, saying “thanks for all you do.”

Village President Deborah Wright asked if they were requesting funding support from other communities. Johnson said yes, in the communities where they provide services.

Pickup told the board, “[You] certainly had enough money if you wanted to seed this request.” He said this was the goal of the money awarded each community, and, “our community has been impacted significantly [by opioids].”

Trustee James McAuliffe moved to approve the funding request, and the trustees passed the motion unanimously.

Trustee Stefan Golec agreed it was good seed money and thanked them, saying “you’re here and involved.”

The Bellows Falls Village Trustees meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m., in the Lower Theatre of the Opera House. The annual election was held on May 15. May 23 will be the first meeting of 2023 with possible new members on the board. The joint board meeting of Saxtons River and Bellows Falls Trustees and the Rockingham Selectboard will be held on Tuesday, May 30.

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