NEW CANAAN — The Board of Selectmen unanimously appointed Dr. John Santopietro as the town’s new director of behavioral health last Tuesday.

Santopietro’s duties will include providing guidance to the police department where behavioral health is involved, and assisting in work related to the town’s mental health and substance use procedures and policies. He is president and medical director of Silver Hill Hospital, a position he took in September last year.

“(Chief of Police Leon Krolikowski) said the town was interested in mental health and substance use disorder and that they had a need for some help with understanding and planning for that as well,” Santopietro said in a phone interview.

Krolikowsi said Santopietro would get a nominal stipend, but the “bulk of his work is pro-bono.” Santopietro will report to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.

“I had the opportunity to speak to fifth-graders at Saxe Middle School and some asked me about what we could do with the drug problem at the high school,” Moynihan said at the selectmen meeting regarding issues of substance abuse in town. “This is on the mind of fifth-graders.”

Santopietro said he would be coordinating with the police department to prepare educational events at the station, though there is no timeline yet.

“There’s an education component and an enforcement component, so this is somewhere in the middle, with (Santopietro’s) expertise,” Krolikowski said at the meeting.

When asked about the difference between behavioral and mental health, Santopietro said the terms were interchangeable.

“Behavioral health is becoming a more popular term because there’s slightly less stigma associated with it than ‘mental health’ and people understand the word ‘behavior,’ ” Santopietro said.

Santopietro said he was enthusiastic about starting his new role.

“I’m truly honored to have been asked, and I’m happy to represent Silver Hill and look forward to continuing to work with New Canaan and the surrounding towns,” Santopietro said.

Santopietro attended Yale University and Northwestern University Medical School. He finished his internship, residency and fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

humberto.juarez@hearst

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