OPINION: New initiatives tackle problem from all sides

Ask anyone, “What is the biggest problem facing your community?” and many, if not most, will answer with some variation or combination of drug abuse and addiction.

No one can deny communities across the nation are battling a crippling and devastating epidemic. Just look at the numbers if you have any doubt.

According to a recent press release from The Greater Clark Foundation, an average of 25 to 30 people overdose in Clark County each week. About 10 of those people are taken to emergency rooms and the rest are administered Narcan by first responders, friends or possibly strangers on the scene.

The 2017 Overdose Fatality Report issued by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy found that last year, 17 people from Clark County died of drug overdoses.

That is 17 too many. The statistics are daunting and demand action.

Thousands of people have dedicated their life’s work to study how to tackle substance abuse, asking “What are the root causes?” and “What mechanism of treatment is most beneficial?” For each person with a substance abuse problem, the answers are probably different. That is why the battle against this epidemic is not easily won.

However, two grants recently issued by The Greater Clark Foundation will help local groups tackle this issue in two different but, hopefully, effective ways.

The What’s Your Ambition?! grants will fund a peer support program through Achieving Recovery Together (ART) and an education series through Clark County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP) in partnership with Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

ART is a newly-founded agency based on models used at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and in Rhode Island. Through its “Angel Program” peer support specialists visit with every person who has overdosed at Clark Regional Medical Center. They offer counseling and provide information such as recovery meetings, rehabilitation and detox options, and ALANON meetings.

These mental health and addiction workers are also in recovery themselves and have experience with a psychiatric disorder, such as PTSD, depression or addiction. They lean on this experience to help clients.

ART will use the 90-day timeframe of the What’s Your Ambition?! grant to build and test a new volunteer program, as well as intervention and data-gathering processes. If these new initiatives prove successful at the end of the grant period, ART will utilize the lessons learned in efforts to reach more Clark Countians dealing with addiction.

ASAP will offer a three-part education series to build awareness about the issues facing Clark County’s youth. The series will focus on things like drug trends, paraphernalia, early signs of drug use, social media, bullying and school violence.

Presenters will include Kentucky State Police, a psychiatry specialist, a community pastor and County Attorney Brian Thomas.

The best way to tackle such an enormous problem as the country’s drug epidemic is to approach the issue from every angle. Focus on prevention. Meet the person grappling with addiction where they are. Learn from the person in recovery.

These new initiatives aim to do all of that.

The GCF has done a great service to the community by funding these programs. If effective, they have the potential to have an enormous positive impact on our community.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board. The board is comprised of publisher Michael Caldwell and managing editor Whitney Leggett. To inquire about a meeting with the board, contact Caldwell at 759-0095.