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Groups must unite in battle against drugs to conquer problem

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Having seen first hand the damage that drug and alcohol abuse can do to loved ones, I think it’s terrific that so many people are wanting to get involved to help rid Carroll County and its community of illegal drugs.

It is true: Our communities – and the country – seem to have come full circle from eight or 10 years ago, when everyone started learning about the growing misuse of prescription drugs. Back then, it was cheaper to buy ill-gotten but legal narcotics from a dealer or a friend than it was to buy cocaine or heroin.

Over time, it became clear that the prescription drugs weren’t just being stolen from pharmacies, but rather people were searching medicine cabinets in the homes of friends, family and neighbors to find narcotics to abuse or sell to others.

As people became more enlightened and laws regarding prescriptions became more restrictive, prescription pills have become harder to come by and more expensive.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. Instead, heroin is regaining a foothold because it is now cheaper and easier to get than anything else on the black market. It’s obviously a vicious cycle.

Just this summer, two groups of concerned citizens have come forward to present ideas on how to reduce the growing substance-abuse problem here. I attended a meeting Aug. 28, of the Hope Against Dope group, and was amazed to see at least 50-60 people gathered in support at the Point Park shelter. I know from experience that it’s difficult to get a large crowd to attend an event, much less an organizational meeting held outdoors on a very hot, humid evening.

I’m thrilled any time I see such a large number of people wanting to get involved and help solve a community problem.

However, as someone who has been co-founder of a group that was started from scratch – Carroll County Animal Support – I also know the hardships of maintaining the momentum as time passes by. Our group was started after the disbanding of the Carroll County Humane Society. We had similar goals, and had that organization still been around, Tammie Crawford and I would have joined it rather than strike out on our own.

We didn’t have that option, though, so we had to take the more difficult road. While CCAS continues to thrive, we constantly go from one extreme to the other – having plenty of volunteers to help with all the different facets of animal rescue to having no one but the core group of the executive committee to do all the work.

So my question is this: Why re-invent the wheel when Carroll County has a well-established substance-abuse prevention and education organization?

Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County was started in 2006 and has had dedicated volunteers and coordinators who have worked hard to educate the community about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse – particularly among young people. The group has hosted town-hall meetings and other events to raise awareness and also works in the schools to help children and teenagers avoid the temptation of using drugs and alcohol.

Despite what seems to be a common belief, Champions is there for the entire community, not just the schools. From the beginning, it has had the support of volunteers from all walks of life – local government officials, state and local law enforcement officers, ministers and church leaders, business and industry representatives, and everyone in between.

I couldn’t help but sense a reluctance among the organizers to consider joining Champions as members, but I hope they will listen to Mayor Gene McMurry, who was at the meeting, and Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson, who spoke briefly with Hope members at Friday’s Fiscal Court meeting.

“How about joining Champions, an already established group?” McMurry asked Wednesday.

“Finally, this community is willing to admit we have a [drug] problem,” Tomlinson said Friday. “But why is it so fragmented? Why so many groups?”

Tomlinson said Fiscal Court already provides financial support to Champions and would like to see everyone band together.

Indeed.

Starting more groups isn’t the answer to this problem. Cliché as it may sound, a house divided cannot stand and there truly is strength in numbers.

Rather than waste a lot of time and effort starting something new, I hope these energized citizens will join forces with a group that already has put a lot of work into finding solutions to an issue they obviously feel very strongly about.

If you think Champions is too involved with the schools, perhaps that’s because there are only so many volunteers to go around. With an infusion of volunteers hungry to work hard and help a different segment of the community – the addicts, the recovering addicts and the families – Champions could grow and become even more effective in its effort to drive drugs out of the community.

As Franklin stated Wednesday: “I feel like if we all work together in this [under the Champions umbrella], our grants can help you. Our main goal is to see these substances go away. … I feel like our organization can help all of you.”

Let’s unite and work together to make the improvements we want to see in our county. It’s never going to be easy, but surely joining Champions and working together as one community would be easier than several groups going in different directions.

 

Phyllis McLaughlin is special sections coordinator for The News-Democrat and resides in Milton, Ky.