Officials join to battle opioid abuse epidemic

Three community leaders are encouraging Jackson County residents to get involved in a grassroots effort to address the local opioid abuse crisis.

Seymour Community School Corp. trustee Nancy Franke and city council members Matt Nicholson and Shawn Malone are working to find solutions to the area drug problem and help those addicted to opioids.

But they realize they can’t do it on their own.

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That’s why they are joining forces with leaders and stakeholders in Bartholomew County and other communities to increase public education on opioids and find real solutions.

“It is apparent that our own community currently does not have the needed resources to deal with the crisis of opioid overdoses we continue to experience,” Franke said.

So far this year, the Seymour Police Department has responded to 14 calls of overdoses from opioids or other prescription or illegal drugs. In 2016, the number of overdose reports was 32. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department took 24 overdose calls last year and so far this year has responded to 16.

Currently, there is just one location in the county that provides a long-term live-in facility for those dealing with drug addictions.

Todd’s Place, a transitional housing and detox facility at 4990 U.S. 31 North, Seymour, offers a program that includes career and financial counseling, relapse prevention, group therapy, one-on-one counseling and Bible study.

The facility only serves men at this time and can house more than 100. Residents must commit to at least six months.

Some area churches, such as The Alley in Seymour, also offer support and counseling services for those with drug addictions, and there are private outpatient drug addiction services available through Centerstone in Seymour.

Although many people agree Seymour needs a drug addiction treatment center, Franke said it would be difficult for a small city like Seymour to create and sustain such a facility.

“But working with area communities may open the doors for an inpatient treatment center,” she said.

Malone said the problem requires major action from citizens and government officials because it’s a matter of life and death for people and for communities.

“I feel it is necessary for our state and local representatives to help us create and fund treatment facilities, places where folks can get the help they deserve to become the human beings we all desire to be — happy, productive members of society,” he said.

Nicholson said partnering with other community efforts will broaden the support base and build connections for services that could be offered to Jackson County families in need.

“The opioid problem isn’t just a Seymour problem,” Nicholson said. “We must work together with other neighboring communities to find solutions.”

On April 19, a public event to educate and motivate the community will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at The Commons in downtown Columbus.

“Moving the Needle: Community Forum” will feature a talk by author and journalist Sam Quinones, who wrote the book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.” Also speaking will be psychiatrist Dr. Kendall Stewart.

The book “Dreamland” chronicles the struggles of Portsmouth, a blue-collar city of about 20,000 in southern Ohio that struggled with the effects of opioid addiction in the 1990s. It describes how that community dug its way out of the epidemic of overdoses and addiction.

Malone said every resource must be tapped in order to take the community back from the grip of drugs, and if Portsmouth, Ohio, can do it, so can Seymour.

“In the end, we want to say, ‘We saw an epidemic, and we did everything we could to stop it from tearing apart our families and killing our friends, neighbors and loved ones,’” Malone said. “We must act now, for tomorrow may be too late.”

If you go

What: Moving the Needle: Community Forum, featuring author and journalist Sam Quinones and psychiatrist Dr. Kendall Stewart

When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 19

Where: The Commons in downtown Columbus

Cost: Free and open to the public

Information: Call Nancy Franke at 812-523-1710 or email nancy.franke@ymail.com

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.