GREENVILLE — The grass-roots, non-profit organization, the Coalition for a Healthy Darke County, is planning to host its second Community Conversation event on addiction and substance abuse on Monday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Greenville High School.
The public event is aimed towards adults and will offer an interactive drug awareness activity that would be beneficial for parents, teachers, school board members and concerned citizens in the community. Through the unique program called Hidden in Plain Sight, participants will have the opportunity to be guided through a simulated teenager’s bedroom that contains 50+ items that may be indicative of dangerous and risky behaviors. The program is provided by the Tri – County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services.
The Coalition’s first event, held in October, 2016, focused on the topic of heroin and what has been happening in the county as the number of users and addicts continue to rise. The event Monday changes gears and focuses on youth substance abuse prevention and education.
On the same day as the event, 850 Greenville High School students will attend assemblies to learn about addiction and substance abuse, such as: alcohol, marijuana, pain medication and heroin. Additionally, on Monday, May 15, 1,000 Greenville Elementary students K-4 will also learn age-appropriate substance abuse education and prevention during school assemblies. The speaker and assembly programs are funded through collaborative grant dollars from the Coalition, Darke County United Way and Greenville Rotary.
“The Coalition believes in delivering a consistent message to youth that drugs can devastate their lives and destroy their futures. We need to share that message whenever and wherever there is a teachable moment,” said Sharon Deschambeau, president, Darke County Chamber of Commerce and Coalition.
Speakers at the school assemblies and evening event will include Anna Hatic, D.O., Board Certified Internal Medicine, Family Health; Arcanum-Butler graduate Alisha Reiss, M.D., General Surgeon, Wayne HealthCare; Ian Ridgeway, Prevention and Wellness Coordinator, Tri – County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services; Timothy Kathman, M.D., Internal Medicine, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Wayne HealthCare and Darke County Coroner; Darke County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker; and, the youth-led student group, Darke County We Are The Majority under the direction of Kelly Harrison Prevention Specialist, Recovery and Wellness of Midwest Ohio.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2014. More than 60 percent of these deaths involved an opioid. Those numbers are climbing and have hit home. Darke County had 17 accidental drug deaths in 2016 and 12 so far this year. This has left people wondering where to go for help and resources.
In addition in Darke County’s backyard, a neighboring city, Dayton, Ohio, in Montgomery County in 2014 had the fifth highest drug overdose death rate in the nation (24.6 per 100,000), a statistically significant increase from prior year, according to a 2016 Unintentional Drug Overdose Data Review from the Epidemiology Section of Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County. Drug overdose deaths in Montgomery County contributed to the steady rise in overdose deaths in Ohio. With 953 deaths from 2009 to 2014, the County has the second highest drug overdose rate in the state (31.1 per 100,000), according to the data.
Those staggering facts led to a collaborative initiative in Darke County that was started to positively impact health, wellness and social issues that includes the growing drug addiction and substance abuse epidemic. The Coalition for a Healthy Darke County started in September, 2015, with 59 community stakeholders, including: business members, community leaders, law enforcement, school officials, judges, healthcare providers and churches.
According to Deschambeau, people are angry, desperate, hurt, scared and are seeking help.
In September 2014, the Coalition had strategic planning sessions to identify community concerns, said Deschambeau. Some of the programs and initiatives that grew from the plans are: The Vivitrol Program, providing intervention and treatment to maintain an opioid-free state in individuals addicted to opiates or alcohol; The Council on Rural Services Gateway Community Connectors program, providing mentoring to youth in grades 5-12 with role models of healthy drug and substance – free living; and the implementation of more School Resource Officers.
“While working through the strategic process, it became clear to community leaders that drug abuse is not just a law enforcement issue, but a health issue encompassing physical, mental, behavioral and spiritual health,” Deschambeau said. ”I have learned more about compassion in the past three years, in trying to help people and find resources for our county. While we have limited resources and funding, we strive to continue researching and planning future endeavors.”
Some goals and working projects of the Coalition include: Public and workforce awareness education; exploring legislation that promotes communication and collaboration with other organizations about health and substance abuse; implementing a curriculum-based substance-abuse education program in all of Darke County school districts; financially supporting organizations that want to bring a Families of Addicts (FOA) chapter to Darke County, a grass-roots recovery support initiative; and bringing in a Quick Response Team (QRT), which is a collaborative effort that combines the resources of emergency medical services, law enforcement, and chemical dependency treatment to address the mounting drug problem.
“So many people in this community have been working for solutions,” Deschambeau said. “We have resources here. We want to help individuals and families that struggle with the disease of addiction. The Coalition and its network of community partners are working together to find answers.”
The Coalition website, coalitiondarkecounty.com, offers community resources and information on community programs for not just substance abuse, but elder care and services; mental and behavioral health; physical health; safety; spiritual health; wellness;and youth education and prevention.
Sponsors for the Coalition events are the Darke County Chamber of Commerce, Darke County Coroner’s Office, Darke County Sheriff’s Office, Darke County United Way, Family Health, Greenville Rotary, Premier Health, Recovery and Wellness of Midwest Ohio, Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services, and Wayne HealthCare.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.