Joe Courtney visits Sound Community Services

Congressman learns about the service and impact of the organization

Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) made his first-ever visit to Sound Community Services on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. During the visit, Courtney met with staffers and clients to learn more about the organization’s work.

The congressman dedicated part of his visit to eastern Connecticut to learn more about the local resources available to residents recovering from addiction. Earlier in the day, he went to the Perception House in Willimantic and Reliance Health Inc. in Norwich.

Nichole Fenton, the Program Coordinator of Sound Community Services’ Intensive Outpatient Program, said the efforts to help those recovering from substance abuse have grown substantially in the past two years. The program, which runs three hours a day, originally only met three days a week. When participants said they were more vulnerable to relapse in the four days after the end of the week’s meetings, Sound Community Services expanded the program to five days a week.

“The community now knows us as a place where anytime they’re ready, they can come,” said Fenton.

Jason Hyatt, Vice President of Programs & Integration, said Sound Community Services follows a “harm reduction” model, which looks to provide rapid assistance to someone when they’re ready for help. He said it’s also important to include a person’s family in the recovery efforts since family members also suffer from a relative’s addiction and may not feel comfortable trying to get them help.

“We’ve had cases where families haven’t disclosed it for three or four years,” Hyatt said. “That’s a huge barrier to have to get over.”

During a visit to the Intensive Outpatient Program, Courtney met with a recent program graduate who asked to be identified as Ted. He told the congressman how he developed a drug addiction after a surgery and recovered with the help of Sound Community Services.

“I always thought addiction was a choice, but it really is a disease,” said Ted.

He added that he considers recovery programs to be an investment in the state since those who find help can get back on their feet, find jobs, and contribute to the economy.

Courtney said he was pleased to see the work of Sound Community Services in helping people recover from substance abuse. He also stressed the importance of avoiding stigmas against those fighting addiction, saying they should be treated the same as anyone working to overcome a medical issue.

“What they’re doing here is really smart, and I’m glad to see some actual results,” said Courtney. “We’ve got to get past this view that it’s hopeless and nothing works.”

Courtney also visited other services housed at Sound Community Services’ main location on Montauk Ave. in New London. These included the organization’s outpatient programs, Genoa Pharmacy, OASIS Center for educational and social rehabilitation, employment services program, and AXS Center, a drop-in center for young adults (ages 18-25) transitioning to adulthood.

Members of the AXS Center spoke to how Sound Community Services has helped them overcome addiction, find employment and housing, meet friends, and express themselves. The employment services program shared how they served 162 individuals in the year ending August 2018, including 28 between the ages of 18 and 25.

Gino Demaio, Chief Executive Officer of Sound Community Services, said the organization has been particularly active in recent years. In 2017, it served approximately 2,500 people.

“I’m glad that [Courtney] was able to come here, see the agency, and see the results,” said Demaio. “It gives us an opportunity to show how relevant we really are.”