NEW CANAAN — Many towns are telling residents about the dangers of substance abuse as an opioid epidemic sweeps the nation. But New Canaan is shifting away from scare tactics and is instead looking to arm parents with practical skills.

Building Family Resilience in a World of Booze, Bongs, and Benzos is a free information session at Town Hall, aiming to equip parents with approaches to build tools for solutions in their own family.

Sponsored by New Canaan Health and Human Services along with the New Canaan League of Women Voters, the Feb. 8 event follows up last year’s opioids information forum “Athlete, Merit Scholar, Suburban Junkie: Protecting Our Kids from the Opioid Epidemic.”

“Last time, I think it scared people,” said Jackie D’Louhy, youth and family services coordinator at New Canaan Youth Services. “One girl was an alumni of NCHS and she talked about her drug use. It’s so great when someone’s willing to come to talk about that, but this time we want to say to people it’s not too late. I go to too many events where we walk away where I see parents scrambling in the parking lot, like we got no tips.”

This time, parents will walk away from the event with a booklet with tips on how to talk to their children in ways that empower them.

The event will also feature role playing, as well as a question-and-answer session. The forum will be moderated by Carrie Bernier of the Community Fund of Darien. Speakers include Dr. Frank Bartolomeo, director of Behavioral Health Services at Southfield Center for Development, pediatrician and master’s candidate at Columbia Dr. Jamie Murray, and Tracy Masella, program manager at the Adolescent Transitional Living Program at Silver Hill Hospital. Certified Recovery Life Coach Kathy Brown will be directing the role play.

Brown said she’ll be focusing on peer pressure, self-esteem, parental behavior and practical strategies and communication tactics to deal with these issues. According to Brown, the key is teaching and modeling coping skills so children have another way to cope with unpleasant feelings, aside from turning to drugs or alcohol.

More Information

Get There

“Building Family Resilience in a World of Booze, Bongs, and Benzos” will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in New Canaan Town Hall in the Town Meeting Room. For more information on this event, contact New Canaan Health and Human Services at (203) 594-3076 or Carol McDonald at

“The goal of it is to inform, but also give them practical skills,” she said. “Coping is about skill building.”

The other speakers will touch upon these modeling behaviors, as well as building boundaries and self-esteem for your kids.

“At the end of the night, parents will walk out with a sense of building up resilience,” Brown said. “It involves tough love. It’s tough work, but the payoff is they’ll see the correlation in their kids.”


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