- Published: Wednesday, 27 April 2016 13:32
By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor
MOUNT VERNON – A physician, a college student, a drug user, and other community members came together Tuesday evening for a town hall meeting and a call for action about substance abuse. The event was organized by the Knox County Democratic Women and held at the public library. The non-partisan event featured presentations by Mount Vernon School Superintendent Bill Seder, Jeff Williams, Executive Director of The Freedom Center and Municipal Court Judge John Thatcher.
Municipal Court Judge John Thatcher, left, Jeff Williams, Executive Director of The Freedom Center; center, and Bill Seder, Mount Vernon City Schools Superintendent at Wednesday night's town hall on substance abuse - KnoxPages.com photo by Marty Trese
Seder began his remarks by talking about high school dropouts and said he made it a policy that any student who wishes to drop out has to meet with him personally. Seder asks what is going on with them. He has heard stories about abuse and parental neglect. He then relayed information discovered in a survey of 17,000 people on adverse childhood experiences or ACES. The study found that the higher number of ACES the higher the potential for drug use. Some of the ACES are:
- Abuse-Psychological (by parents), Physical (by parents), Sexual (anyone)
- Neglect-Emotional, physical
- Household Dysfunction – Alcoholism or drug use in the home, loss of biological parent by age 18, depression or mental illness in home, mother treated violently, imprisoned household member
Seder shared that some Mount Vernon School district students eat breakfast and lunch at school and those are their only meals for the day. 54% of students receive free and reduced lunch, that is up 6% from a year ago. The district has 4,000 students and next year three social workers will start working in the elementary schools.
Williams shared that The Freedom Center is open to anyone seeking help with addiction. There are many community treatment options. Those include:
- Residential (none in Knox County currently)
- Intensive Outpatient
Community members can help by becoming involved with KSAAT, Knox Substance Abuse Action Team. The coalition recently received a drug free communities grant and now employs a coordinator who oversees the Youth, Adult and Community committees of KSAAT. You can learn more about the coalition on their Facebook page.
Thatcher shared that last Friday Mount Vernon Municipal Court received final certification from the Ohio Supreme Court for a MERIT drug court. MERIT stands for Mandated Education and Referral into Treatment. The court kept seeing the same offenders over and over again. Sometimes offenders will have a felony, a misdemeanor, and a child custody issue all going on at the same time.
The purpose of drug court is to try to reduce the costs to the public and protect the public from the offenders’ future crimes. The drug court involves four phases, the first of which requires offenders to attend weekly meetings, undergo drug screenings, and attend Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings daily. During this initial phase offenders can’t be employed so they can spend time working on themselves. Offenders work through the program and it can take a year or more. Another part of drug court is MERIT-V, the V stands for the drug vivitrol. This drug blocks the effects of heroin and alcohol.
Following the presentations, a physician talked about opiate prescribing practices, a woman who said she is a drug user said more needs to be done to reach those using drugs in our community and a college student who has worked at Knox Commmunity Hospital said drug abusers are frequent visitors to the emergency department.
While the substance abuse problem is enormous, last night's meeting was a worthwhile effort to bring about more awareness and possible solutions.