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September 26, 2012

Courage to Speak Foundation opens family resource center

Gathered at the opening of the Courage to Speak Foundation Family Resource Center on Friday are: (from left to right) Kileen Doyle, board member;
Gary Curto, board member; Larry Katz, co-founder; Ginger Katz, founder of The Courage to Speak Foundation; Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia; Luis
Solis, board member and owner of Norwalk Pizza and Pasta, Back Row: Norwalk Poli ceChief Thomas Kulhawik, and David Wrinn, Deputy Chief.
Photo: Contributed Photo / CT


Nicole Rivard

Updated 6:18 p.m., Wednesday, September 26, 2012

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Norwalk) spent a lot of time with her summer interns, and she talked to the young people extensively about what they thought of the new Connecticut drug laws–the one decriminalizing possession and personal use of less than one half ounce of marijuana, and the one approving the medical use of the marijuana.

“They are very confused now. They don’t really understand what’s OK to do and what isn’t, and really what is legal and what is not,” Laveille told the people gathered at the opening of the Courage to Speak Foundation Family Resource Center in Norwalk last Friday morning. “And whether having anything to do with it at all is maybe OK.

“The reason why now education is more important than it ever was is because the law has become so murky that we can no longer rely on the law to provide guidance about what is, or what is not, good for anybody.”

In addition to Lavielle, other local legislators attending the ribbon cutting agreed that the timing couldn’t be better for the launch of the Family Resource Center, headquartered at 71 East Ave., Suite M. The new center, which is also the new headquarters for the foundation, will provide information on substance abuse and prevention to educate parents, teachers and children.

“Courage to Speak is critical because you have such a strong, clear message,” said state Rep. Chris Perone (D-Norwalk). “You need to have that strong message in the wake of this sort of confused message that’s coming out of Hartford. I thank Ginger Katz directly for that.”

Ginger Katz founded the Courage to Speak organization in 1996, just months after her 20-year- old son, Ian James Eaccarino, died of an accidental drug overdose. She and her husband, Larry Katz, pledged that they would do all they could to help prevent such a tragedy from befalling another family. Since then, she has personally delivered nearly 1,000 presentations reaching hundreds of thousands of individuals nationwide, including young people and adults who care about them. The Courage to Speak Foundation offers drug prevention curricula for elementary, middle and high school students along with its Courage to Speak – Courageous Parenting 101® course for parents.

The new Family Resource Center contains educational brochures, pamphlets, books, literature and DVDs, and includes a lending library and a children’s activity area. Resource materials are available in English and Spanish. The Resource Center is conveniently located a few short blocks from Norwalk City Hall and is on the city bus route. The center will reinforce and enhance the longtime mission of the foundation: saving lives by empowering youth to be drug free and encouraging parents to communicate effectively with their children about the dangers of drugs.

“Our job is getting harder and harder because of the misconceptions,” Katz said.

“I get a lot of questions from the high school students in particular, which is good, because it gives me the opportunity to explain the laws and what they really mean. We just have to keep emphasizing that if our kids can get to 21 without using any drugs, in all probability for the rest of their lives they will not become addicted and have a lifelong disease of addiction, which brings havoc on families and the community. The key is to keep talking about it.”

In addition to the misconceptions surrounding substance abuse these days, it is the calls from parents who hear her presentation that prompted Ginger and Larry to launch the resource center.

“I get calls from parents of children who are using. And that’s difficult,” Ginger said.

“They are in fear that they are going to lose their child. There’s nothing like getting that call. I’m on the phone for an hour sometimes trying to convince a mom to go to Al Anon and to get help for herself so she can understand this disease… . There’s hope. There are a lot of people in recovery. We try to tell them where resources are in the community. There are lots of treatment places in Connecticut. And as we develop our resource center we are going to get more and more contacts and places to go for help and have that available for parents too.”

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in 2011 declared that teen smoking, alcohol consumption, use of illegal drugs and misuse of prescription drugs remains a number one health problem nationwide, described as “an epidemic.”

Children who learn about risks associated with smoking and other substance abuse issues from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use or abuse. And yet most parents don’t know how to talk to their children about substance abuse or don’t have enough information themselves to do so well.

“This is the result of true dedication that came out of a difficult situation,” said Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia, who attended the opening of the resource center.

“When you really think about the name of this organization it really sums up exactly what part of the problem is. People do not have the courage, the inclination…to speak out when they see things,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids. Don’t be afraid to talk to counselors. Don’t be afraid to talk to people in the school system. All I can say is thank God that Ginger had the courage to speak.”

Lorraine Delia Watcke of Norwalk is also grateful to Ginger and Larry for having the courage to speak and for creating the Courage to Speak Support Group, which meets once a month.

“I lost my son three years ago to a heroin overdose,” she said.

“And I just wish I met Ginger before then instead of after, because she’s been such a help to me. I know if I had met her before, it would have been wonderful.”

Hours for the Family Resource Center are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 203-831-9700 or 877-431-3295.

The Courage to Speak® Foundation is offering a free course for parents called Courage to Speak — Courageous Parenting 101® in both English and Spanish at West Rocks Middle School, 81 West Rocks Road, Norwalk. Katz will deliver a presentation on Thursday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m., followed by session one. Sessions two and three will follow on Thursday, Oct. 11 and 18 at 6 p.m. This free program will give parents the tools to keep their children safe from drugs and other risky behaviors. Light dinner will be served. Child care will be provided upon request.