By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor
MOUNT VERNON - The Knox Substance Abuse Action Team (KSAAT) and representatives from law enforcement, the court system, a substance abuse treatment facility and the local hospital all came together Wednesday morning for a news conference to encourage the community to attend the upcoming Knox Addiction Conference June 28 and 29 at Kenyon College.
The conference will span the two days with speakers and break out sessions. Day 1 will focus on understanding addictive behavior. Day 2 will focus on root causes and the culture of addiction.
On June 28 the first session breakout sessions will focus on Recovery Housing and Community Support, Community Statistics, Drug Trends, Resources that make a Difference, Non-pharmacological pain management, Understanding Treatment & Recovery 101.
The second breakout session focus will be on Recovery Housing: Peer Support, Recovery Coaches, Knox Community Recovery Framework, Narcan and Legislative Changes, and Mount Vernon Drug Courts. The breakout sessions on June 29th will feature Student track: Youth Led initiatives Rx Drugs, Restoring Family Relationships, and SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment).
Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville said, "70% of those who come into court and plead guilty to a felony have some sort of drug problem - they're either addicted to drugs or in danger of becoming addicted. The link between drug use and crime is very significant.
This is a huge issue for our community on many levels - crime, homelessness, drug dependency, treatment. We recently did a poll where 70% of the respondents -over 400 - indicated that they personally know someone who is struggling with drug dependency issue in Knox County."
Jeff Williams, Executive Director of the Freedom Center, said "Addiction is addiction, and so the process someone goes through with treatment is going through the stages of change. We're talking about behavioral change in terms of breaking cycles of addiction and making life changes for one's own personal choices.
One of the biggest barriers to access to services is the stigma of addiction - families and individuals".
Knox County Sheriff's Office Detective Lt. Craig Feeney says the goal of the conference is to educate the public on current trends and try to get them involved despite fear of repercussions. The residents are the eyes and ears of the community,they know what's normal and what is not normal. Feeney said "KSAAT was started to get all the entities that deal with drug abuse to communicate so we can solve the problem together, it has to be a team effort."
Mount Vernon Police Detective Cpl, James DeChant says he is seeing more burglaries, break-ins and crimes of violence because of drugs. Methamphetamine is the drug of choice in the city right now. Heroin and marijuana are also prevalent. About the upcoming conference Cpl. DeChant said, "[Attendees] will be able to find out what problems are going on and what resources are out there to help with the fight and what you can do for yourself."
And Cpl. DeChant says drug abuse is, "...happening just about everywhere in Mount Vernon - neighborhoods, in business parking lots, inside businesses, rental properties, in the streets, in the parks."
Jim Middleton, Chief Nursing Officer at Knox Community Hospital says society needs to take the stigma away from substance abuse and the use of Narcan, (which is used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose), and take the judgement out. Middleton says, "We are saving a life."
About the conference, Middleton says he is excited to see the programming for youth. We are seeing more and more children being exposed to drugs and alcohol at a much younger age. To have a "near peer," talk about it is a good thing.
To register for the Knox Addiction Conference visit KSAAT2017.eventbrite.com, KSAAT.org, or the KSAAT Facebook page. Both days will feature lunch. Youth will be admitted free. There is a charge for adults to attend.