In 1971, a new organization — the Alcoholism Council of Mid-Fairfield County — was created to address an old yet persistent problem. It served as an important information and referral center.
Over the years, the Council broadened its scope to include other substances, and added services like counseling and recovery.
Its name changed too: first to the Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Council, then Positive Directions: The Center for Prevention and Recovery. Today it’s Positive Directions: The Center for Prevention and Counseling.
Though it has impacted countless lives during its half century in Westport, Positive Directions is still one of the most overlooked health services in town.
“People don’t know about us. Or they have misconceptions,” says executive director Vanessa Wilson.
“We’re not just about treating substance abuse. Preventing substance misuse and promoting mental well-being among youth is a large focus of our work.”
The non-profit partners with groups like Westport’s Department of Human Services, the Westport Prevention Coalition and Norwalk Partnership to gather data, coordinate meetings and provide training.
Positive Directions runs a psychiatric and substance abuse outpatient clinic for adults and adolescents. led by 9 clinicians and 2 medication prescribers, as well as one-to-one peer support groups.
The pandemic aggravated what was already a community-wide problem. A treatment fund was created during COVID for clients with financial hardship, In addition, free virtual recovery group meetings run weekly. A free support group for teachers struggling with anxiety due to COVID was added last year.
As Positive Directions has evolved, so has its outreach. A social media campaign spreads awareness of its mission and message in ways unfathomable in 1971 — or even 2001.
For example, TurningPointCT.org is an online mental health and substance abuse resource, created by and for area young people. It’s a forum for connection and support, via social media.
Positive Directions continues to evolve. A recent focus is on problem gambling.
Much has changed since Positive Directions began, half a century ago. But much has not.
Westporters and our neighbors continue to struggle with alcohol and substance abuse. More than ever, we need resources to help with addiction and recovery.
We need a positive direction. And — by whatever name it’s called — Positive Directions continues to lead the way.
(For more information about Positive Directions, click here.)