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Friday, December 2, 2011

Appalachian Abuse Fighters

 "There are 1 million fewer prescription pills 
on the streets in 2011 as compared to 2010
according to the Ohio Department of Alcohol
and Drug Addiction Services.

"The decrease in pills comes 
in Scioto and Gallia counties
ranked among the worst in the state 
for prescription drug abuse. 

"Residents in other counties wonder 
if the state can also decrease the problem 
in their county.

"Ohio Department of Alcohol 
and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS)  
credits the decrease to several factors, 
including actions taken by 
Ohio's Drug Abuse Task force 
and crackdowns on pill mills."

(Nadia Bashir, "Winning War on Prescription Drug Abuse, State Says,", October 31 2011)

News and Video Link:

I feel like quoting Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead's song "Truckin'":

"Lately it occurs to me: what a long, strange trip it's been." 

But, then again, maybe the Dead (for some obvious reasons) is not the best allusion for a fight against drug abuse. The fight has definitely been "long" and "hard" taking members of the Scioto Rx Drug Task Force and its Action Team into numerous protests on the street; prayerful vigils; formations of support groups and Facebook groups; meetings with local, state, and federal officials and agencies; trips to the Ohio Statehouse and hearings with legislators; media coverage from from local, state, and national levels; sessions in courtrooms statewide; meetings and workshops at schools, colleges, and counseling centers: on and on.

We have met with the Federal Drug Czar, Governors, Senators, State Representatives, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, DEA and law enforcement heads, clinical professors from universities, representatives from pharmaceutical companies, officers of the Appalachian Regional Commission, religious leaders, national talk show hosts, popular entertainers, counselors, and, of course, youth of all ages.

We have fought negative attitudes such as

1. "It's our right in a free society to sell drugs to anyone with a prescription."

2. "Alleviation of individuals' pain supersedes the deadly cost of high distribution."

3. "No one makes a person take a pill: addicts kill and maim themselves; doctors and pharmacies are not to blame."

4. "Nothing you can do will help the problem of drug addiction besides legalization."

5. "Keep religion out of the issue -- remember separation of Church and State."

6. "Closing pill mills will result in the undertreatment of legitimate pain."

7. "Just Say No is the only thing that works - money spent on drug education and behavior modification is wasted funds."

8. "To say there is an Rx Drug Health Emergency of epidemic proportions is gross overstatement."

9. "The children of good parents do not take drugs."

10. "Jobs and the economy deserve precedence over high rates of death and destruction caused by drug abuse."

11. "I don't see a prescription drug problem; after all, these drugs are legal and controlled by professionals."

12. "Pharmaceutical companies and state reporting agencies adequately control and stop all illegal rx drug distribution."

13. "Commerce, even in the face of public harm, must be protected and allowed to flourish."

14. "People are exposing drug abuse just 'to give the area a black eye.'"

In the last couple of years, the first steps were taken in the fight against prescriptions drug abuse:

1. The Action Team identified the problem and verified its extent in Scioto County.

2. The Action Team declared rx drug abuse a public health epidemic.

3. The Action Team realized and stressed the urgency of acting swiftly upon the problem.

4. The Action Team met and planned strategies with health officials, law enforcement, government agencies, churches, lawmakers, and the public to combat the problem.

5. The Action Team informed locals about the health epidemic and exposed the details to the nation through mass media and town hall settings.

6. The Action Team began a grass roots campaign to protest pill mills, distribute information, and recruit supporters.

7. The Action Team formed committees of support groups and individuals that addressed abuse issues such as prevention, intervention, jobs, crime, related health issues such as hepatitis, and rehab.

8. The Action Team networked with existing institutions, groups, and individuals to establish better communication and to promote better awareness of available area resources.

9. The Action Team received help from educational institutions, commissions, state boards, and government agencies to fight the problem.

10. The Action Team opened its membership to all those committed to saving lives and preventing rx drug dependency.

11. The Action Team lobbied and supported House Bill 93 that more strongly governs how clinics operate and closely monitors prescriptions and doctors while giving medical and pharmacy boards more authority.

12. The Action Team lobbied and supported a Pain Clinic Ordinance for the city of Portsmouth, Ohio.

13. The Action Team lobbied and supported a levy for drug abuse prevention in all county schools.

14. The SOLACE Organization Support Group received verbal commitments from 14 Ohio Counties to start a local chapter (Ashtabula and Pickaway Counties have groups already up and running.)

Much more work remains to be accomplished; however, being a part of a movement that has already produced remarkable results is very gratifying. So many have worked so hard to advance the cause and to reduce prescription drug abuse. 
The Scioto Rx Drug Abuse Task Force Action Team stimulated many ideas and much support for many of the needed changes enacted by the Ohio Drug Abuse Task Force and the State Legislature.The Scioto team served as the spearhead of the fight in Ohio and proved to be a national model for effective action against drug abuse.

The results of "people power" are far reaching. What began in Appalachian as a problem with "hillbilly heroin" is being felt everywhere. The rest of the nation is beginning to realize and to experience the terrible toll of rx drug abuse. Many officials have already contacted the Scioto Action Team and inquired about successful strategies for community awareness and involvement.

I am proud of my town -- Portsmouth, Ohio; proud of my county -- Scioto County;  proud of my state -- Ohio; and proud of my area -- Appalachia. We have come together to prove that individuals can make a difference: a difference in government, a difference in living conditions, and a difference in saving lives from extreme misery, suffering, and death.

In a once-prosperous place now suffering from joblessness, poverty, high crime rates, health issues, meager education, and a malaise of depression, I still find hope. We are working on a problem related to many of our other ills, and we are making wonderful strides that can greatly reduce drug abuse. We have fought well, but we must realize the battles we have won still don't guarantee the end of the war is near. The Action Team has much, much more to do. Each one of you needs to join our efforts and find a place for your particular talents. The work will enrich your spirit. After all, Appalachian brothers and sisters, we were born fighters.

Taken from Keturah Gray's 
"Children of the Mountains Struggle To Survive," 
a segment of ABC's 20/20, 
February 13 2009
Central Appalachia has up to three times the national poverty rate, an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, the shortest life span in the nation, toothlessness, cancer and chronic depression.

But everywhere in these hills, 
there are also young fighters filled with courage and hope.
Settled by tough pioneers who clawed their way over the Appalachian Mountains to expand America's borders, the region has produced some of the fiercest military fighters the country has seen. Like their ancestors before them, the children of the mountains are born fighters,

Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Ky., said America should pay attention to the conditions in Appalachia.

"When the banking industry melts down, it's like, 'Oh, no, we have a structural problem. We need to reinvest in those people.' But when the folks in Appalachia or the inner city are poor, it's their fault," Davis said. "It's a lot easier to blame people for their poverty than to figure out what's next."

Only one in 10 men in the region will get a college degree -- less than half the national average. For those who do not, the only employment options are Wal-Mart, fast food, the drug trade or the mines.

When asked why they don't just leave the isolating hills, mountain people will tell you that once Appalachia is in your blood, it's in your blood forever.

"I love the voices," said Davis. "Every person, every challenge seems to be remembered in some story, in some way to make people feel better about who they are. I think, in many ways, Appalachia is America written with intensity.

"I mean, there's no reason to think 
that somebody who comes from the mountains 
of Appalachia can't succeed," he said. 

"I think it's just changing the contours 
of our expectations, 
and maybe the geography of our heart."

See the entire "Children of the Mountains..."  article here:
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