Groton considering allocating settlement funds to Community Speaks Out – NBC Connecticut


The City of Groton intends to provide more than $100,000 in opioid settlement funding to a local nonprofit that helps people recover.

Community Speaks Out is a Groton-based organization that helps families and people struggling with addiction find the resources they need for recovery.

Tammy de la Cruz co-founded the organization in 2015 after her son, Joey, shared his own story of addiction and recovery at his high school. Since then, the organization has been working in the community.

“It sustains recovery and what does that look like?” said de la Cruz. “We create a space where we have activities for them. They need to fill their time with healthy things that make them feel just normal.”

De la Cruz said one of the organization’s primary goals is to create a recovery-friendly community. She estimates that the organization has impacted thousands of people in 2022, and now that the need in the community is growing, they want to expand their small office space. In order to expand, the purely voluntary organization needs financial resources.

The City of Groton would like to provide funds for Community Speaks Out. That year, the city was awarded $112,907 as part of a $26 billion settlement with multistate opioid dealers. Cities and communities are expected to receive approximately $300 million from the settlement over the next 18 years.

On Tuesday night, Groton City Council will consider a resolution to allocate money from years two and three of the city’s settlement funding to Community Speaks Out. The council previously awarded Community Speaks Out $22,263 of city first-year settlement funding. The city received $112,907 for the second year of the settlement.

Funding for the third year is ongoing but will likely be higher than the second year, the Groton city manager said.

“It’s absolutely money that’s earmarked for this,” said de la Cruz. “To make a difference in the community. To help people struggling with opioid addiction.”

De la Cruz said the funding would help them enter a new space and expand their reach. She said they would also be reaching out to the recovery community to see where they are hitting roadblocks and how funding could help.

Mike Doyle oversees the recovery coach program at Reliance Health, which recently received federal funding to hire two new coaches and expand its reach in eastern CT. Reliance Health recently began working more closely with Community Speaks Out. Doyle also joined the organization’s board of directors in December.

After a record number of overdose deaths during the pandemic, Doyle said he saw the need to expand a community program like Community Speaks Out.

“I did a narcan training here with 30 people and it could have been 50 if we had a bigger room,” Doyle said. “There is definitely a need.”

Madison Howard is one of the recovery coaches working with Reliance Health, but she also knows firsthand how powerful Community Speaks Out can be.

“It means hope,” Howard said. “It completely changed my life.”

Howard said her life looked very different six years ago. She battled addiction and felt like she had no hope. Her mother heard about Community Speaks Out over the radio.

When Howard was ready, Community Speaks Out guided her and her mother through the process of accessing treatment and recovery.

Howard has been sober for six years and is now a mother of two – a place in life she always dreamed of but never thought possible.

This place brought me a light out of that darkness,” Howard said.

Howard echoed Doyle’s sentiments about the need for more community resources.

De la Cruz said the funding would allow them to touch more lives. She hopes the council will vote unanimously.

“That would help us to help others,” said de la Cruz.

The council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m

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