The Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition unveiled its community plan for the coming year Thursday highlighting the ways it plans to battle the drug epidemic.
“I think it’s important for community members to know that there are interested parties at the table looking at all the areas of the drug epidemic that is plaguing our community,” chairperson Heather Gibson said after the meeting. “I think a lot of people think nothing is being done. The problem is much greater than we have ever seen before, and if they see a way they feel they could help, they are welcome to contact any community member, ask questions or get involved.”
The plan highlights five specific areas the committee has focused its efforts on – harm reduction, supply reduction, prevention, treatment and advocacy.
Gibson said that last year the coalition formed committees, then chairpeople were appointed to form their own committees.
“We’ve been working on this since last year and we made a lot of progress in a lot of areas,” Gibson told about two dozen people gathered for the meeting at the North High Business Center in Hillsboro. “This year we asked the chairs to look at their plans, having meetings, and decide if they wanted to continue with their goals or change some things. What you have before you is the community plan as it has been amended for this year.”
The guest speaker for the meeting was Julie Wise, director of the Highland County Community Action Organization. She said a lot people seem to think alcohol and drug abuse affects primarily low income individuals and families, like the ones her organization serves, but that is not the case.
Still, she asked those attendance if there are things they see that lead low income individuals to use drugs and alcohol.
One answer was that those in low income families don’t have enough money to support their families, so sometimes they turn to selling drugs for money to help their family.
Another person said she has noticed that molestation happens in too many low income families, the victims start self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, and then it becomes a generational cycle.
Another person suggested that low income families often don’t have enough money for their children to participate in athletics, which can be a deterrent to drug and alcohol abuse. She said they often also do not have a way to transport their children to and from games and practices. She also said that if those family’s children are involved in sports, they often don’t have the money to attend games and support their children.
Some in low income situations want to work and improve their situation, another person said, but they don’t have the required skills and are embarrassed to ask for help.
Speaking about the coalition’s community plan, Gibson broke down all five areas and touched on highlights of each one.
“Harm reduction concentrates on mechanisms to reduce the impact the epidemic has on the community, for example, overdoses, Hepatitis C and HIV. This component of the plan will focus on educating the community on referral resources, promoting the use of prescription medication drop boxes, educating physicians about the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting system … alternate prescribing guidelines, and Naloxone or Narcan distribution,” a prepared handout said.
Gibson said that more than 185 Naloxone kits were distributed in the past four months, and that some kits are still available. Groups interested in them should contact the Highland County Health Department.
“Supply reduction seeks to reduce the influx of drugs into the community by monitoring, securing and disposing of prescription medications properly, encouraging collaboration with law enforcement to reduce supply, and enforcing opiate prescription regulation as well as current drug offense laws,” the handout said.
Prevention focuses on educating the community on the effects of drugs and by supporting coalition work to prevent substance abuse.
Treatment concentrates on recovery for addicts through residential treatment, outpatient services, medication-assisted treatment, recovery support for individuals and their loved ones, and increasing the use of substance abuse screenings by physicians.
“Advocacy motivates people to become involved, either through obtaining funding resources to support treatment or lending their expertise, educating the community about opiate abuse, providing understanding of addiction as a health issue, and generating public support to overcome barriers to any components of the community plan,” the handout said.
The next meeting of the coalition will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 at the North High Business Center.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected]