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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fix the Scioto Country Problem of Drug Abuse: A Letter From the Originator

As the originator and initial administrator of the Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse, Misuse, and Overdose Facebook Group, I am offering some information for all group members in an attempt to revitalize our community efforts to fight drug abuse.

Here is our original statement of concern:
"We believe in supporting services and strategies that will change the Scioto County area from being a stronghold of drug problems into a region free of drug abuse, misuse, overdose and their terrible consequences. Scioto County has become the model of community grass roots efforts and the focus of national attention and targeted interventions due to the Advocacy and Activism of this Group, SOLACE, and the Scioto County Drug Action Team."

Since we began the open membership group several years ago, we have added many new members and numerous support organizations to our Facebook community. For example, groups such as the Garrett C. Maloney Memorial Foundation and individuals like Lyndsay Kulp are doing wonderful work in our area. We appreciate the individual contributions of all members to the cause.

Fix the Scioto Country Problem of Drug Abuse has become a ready, reliable means of communication for our county, our state, and our Appalachian area. We proudly view the site as "the place" where information may be disseminated, where opinions may flow, and where hope may flourish. The war against addiction, death, and destruction has been a series of continuous battles, and it continues to be fought thanks to people like you who possess the hearts and minds of warriors.

Saying this, let me share some thoughts that trouble me at this point of our existence.

What a great victory we won when the last of ten pill mills closed in Scioto County. The positive effects, the new laws, the encouraging court decisions, and the just sentencings are still making news. We give thanks to everyone who contributed to these wonderful happenings.

But, unfortunately, when the pill mills left town, many people assumed our major work with drug abuse had been accomplished. Inevitable change came upon us. This is common in any movement that requires ongoing efforts.

New structures in local organizations, changes in committees and specializations of service groups then began in a concerted effort to raise Scioto County from its dubious title of being "The Most Unhealthy County in the State of Ohio" and its ranking of also being "The Eighth Most Unhealthy County in America." These changes in focus and structure were both necessary and good considering the scope of health problems in Scioto County.

("The Most Unhealthy Counties in America,", April 6 2012)

But, while much of the new organization is wonderful and more efficient, to me, one key element of our movement has been dwindling, and now that vital force faces total complacency.

Problems Are Not Solved

I want to thank Frank Lewis for a "wake up call." I believe he was right when he wrote his Portsmouth Daily Times editorial "Change the Mindset" in December 2012. Let me share a portion of the piece with you.

"It turns out that Richard Whitehouse, the former director of the State Medical Board, was right when he told us, “don’t take a victory lap. This is not anywhere near over.”

"The drug subculture in our area continues to run rampant, and now the elderly are involved.
I am sure there will be people who say, 'These poor people don’t get much money. It’s the only way they can make a little money for the things they need.'

"Let me burst that bubble.... Selling drugs illegally is just plain wrong, no matter what excuse you can offer.

"Drugs continue to kill people and ruin lives. They continue to be the biggest problem in the area, no matter how much people think that battle is over. The truth is, that battle has just barely begun. We do not need to be taking a victory lap just because we closed some pain clinics. We do not need to be taking a victory lap just because we put some unscrupulous doctors behind bars.

"We don’t need to be taking a victory lap just because we passed some legislation in the state. As long as people have prescriptions for Oxycodone, Xanax and Morphine in their purses, we haven’t begun to solve the problem.

"We need to change a mindset. And that is more difficult than closing a pain clinic. Doctors have got to stop just wholesale handing out narcotics prescriptions like candy. People have got to stop relying on medicating themselves up all the time.

"For those of you who just think I am horrible because I have no sympathy for people with genuine pain, I can tell you, that doesn’t work with me. I have heard it all before. People with genuine pain, going to reputable physicians and following a complete pain management regimen, are legitimate and have my complete sympathy. But I believe there is way too much of that stuff out there and now that it has become Scioto County’s number one cash crop, it has gotten way out of hand.

"If and when there is a nice influx of industry in the area and we get some good paying jobs, there is one thing that will be an issue to deal with. Before any major corporation will hire anyone, they will need to pass a drug test, and I fear that will limit the workforce availability greatly."

Mr. Lewis understands the reality of living in our area. Now, the sale and use of heroin, meth, and other prescription opiates threaten to destroy all of our accomplishments. We knew new drugs and new means of distribution would take the place of the old. Addicted people remain zombies to the disease; they do not stop taking drugs or become cured of their illness because their "drug of choice" becomes tougher to get. They adapt until they finally reach one of these ends -- incarceration, rehabilitation with life-long counseling, or death.

People still become hopelessly addicted while agencies struggle with how best to teach effective prevention strategies; how best to offer research-based, affordable intervention and treatment; and how best to change this drug-dependent mindset so prevalent in those living in our region.

Dedicated, active people who once religiously attended and supported our grass roots efforts have become too busy to further their commitments or too brainwashed by believing a few improvements have "fixed" our drug problem. Folks, the work is past the beginning changes, but the work is nowhere near finished." We need public action and public support.

I beg you to be a part of the only strategy capable of defeating drug abuse -- the commitment of a large group of the general public to a common goal. This is a personal commitment that requires each individual to activate the most indomitable force of all: the human will.

My Feelings

Advocacy and activism have taken a dangerous fall lately. I take responsibility for my share of "stepping back" for awhile. At the same time, I will not become a person who wants to "wait and see" how the marked decline in true participation affects our movement. Quite frankly, this indifference, complacency, and inaction occurred for decades before the Drug Epidemic and provided fertile ground for the destruction and death that has occurred.

The old Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse Battle Call still remains: "Rise Up!" I am not a health official, a politician, an enforcement officer, or a county representative. I am a citizen, a retired school teacher who believes that intelligent grass roots activism that promotes the common good must never bow to the powers that be. I believe that without the help of a significant number of citizens, we will not reach our goal of becoming " a region free of drug abuse, misuse, overdose and their terrible consequences."
In the time that some may now call "the glory days" of pill mill activism, the one question that I heard the rest of America and the world repeatedly ask may be paraphrased like this:

"In the face of danger and overwhelming odds against accomplishing reform, how did your small community capture the needed public attention and recruit the essential people-power to make great strides against the abuse of prescription drugs?"

And, the statement that repeatedly rang from the mouths of public officials, the state and national media, and the government representatives that supported us may be paraphrased like this:

"Your community efforts to meet a problem and devise effective strategies against an enemy that threatened the very existence of your homeland were a model for all others in our Prescription Nation."

 Well, let me tell you that no reporter, official, or politician did the major work. Without the community grass roots support of the public, the illegal pill mills would still be pumping endless supplies of prescription drugs into the bodies of our men, women, and children. I commend all of you dedicated activists. 
Your individual efforts have done incredibly good work.
You ordinary citizens are the reason
for advancement toward our goal.
I know the story well, and I also know,
without your continued, generous support,
we will backslide into the criminal elements
that intend to poison our communities. 

We need you now more than even. Please understand, this does not mean we need your participation limited to replies and comments in our Facebook group. We welcome those and always will. But, instead, we need the increased participation of all members: We need your honest commitment to action.

This group was not formed to be a collection of "fence sitters" or "dream weavers" or "fate-dependent finger crossers." We were formed as citizen activists who encourage lively debate, communication, and pressure on those who can help further our cause.

I have witnessed some try to silence our opinions, and I believe that is a terrible mistake. We have proven our ability to work together and iron out our agenda. If any of you feel slighted, let me sure you, that was not my intent.

As more and more of our members commit to action, our advancement toward our goal quickens. If more and more people lose interest in activities, our proven "engine" sputters, we stall, and we will eventually die.

The major challenge to our 3,300 members is to become active. Many groups have already been established to accommodate those who choose to play bigger roles. Many more new groups are needed to assist us in fighting drug abuse. You are limited only by a lack of ingenuity and  unwillingness to spark great, creative ideas. No one will pressure you or attempt to change your mindset as you take part. We will learn from each other and vow to support a richness of exchange.

My Final Fix the Scioto County Comments

Our group is dedicated, and always has been dedicated, to saving human lives. This means saving the lives of all those endangered by drug abuse, misuse, and overdose. That means saving the lives of innocents, addicts, and anyone needing help. I think, lately, some different beliefs have led to the unexpected fragmentation of the movement. As these opinions create gaps instead of compromise, they threaten necessary camaraderie. I, personally, despise this single-mindedness.

I have done my share of research and investigation into the appropriate methods of saving those who engage in drug abuse. And so, I have my own personal beliefs, but I understand that I am not a clinical researcher, a certified counselor, a trained public health official, a county sheriff, or a professional with a degree in any area related to ending drug abuse. My understanding is limited. I am a retired school teacher.

Still, when it comes to suboxone, methadone, needle exchange, Vivitrol and the rest, many people want to argue the proper and ethical means of helping fight drug abuse. Since I am a citizen who tries to educate himself by doing personal research about such topics and also by attending meetings and seminars about their use, I have discovered no one treatment or method saves all lives.

So, I believe that anything that saves lives 
may be necessary in the fight against this health epidemic.

Why we seem to be drawing lines about our preferences and allowing those thoughts to limit our contributions to the total movement is baffling to me. Ugly politics seem to enter the most unlikely places. In this case, they enter into the places where life and death hang in the balance. I, personally, cannot see the need to fragment efforts to save a human life, not one.

And, also let me say something at the risk of upsetting some individuals. I have heard many of you publicly pledge to remain in this fight, "come hell or high water," despite any controversy. I have seen you claim to want no reward for your humanitarian efforts, yet some of you have stopped actively supporting the very cause you once called "the most important fight in the future faced by the people in our county."

Nothing is wrong with stopping any activity you deem detrimental to the life you lead, yet something is definitely wrong with stopping an activity that you once professed actually "changed your life" for the better.

I, too, have fallen short at times. Those are the very times I needed to soul search and re- prioritize my efforts to allow time and space for fighting abuse.

If you have been really genuine in your promises to suffer so that others might gain, it is time to discover your true selves. Were you merely using the promises as platitudes to satisfy your own egos or using the promises as springboards for your own personal gains?

So, I ask to see a re-dedication of the old grass roots members and an emergence of many new members to insure the lifeblood of the movement to stop drug abuse. People always ask me, "What can I do?" Many have taken roles in the groups and activities we feature on the Facebook site. But, I think we need to offer our Facebook group new opportunities to become more active in the public arena.

To accommodate this, I ask you to look for an announcement of a new organizational meeting to discuss our concerns. I will make the plans necessary to hold this function. SOLACE has graciously offered to allow us to use their facility on Scioto Trail in Portsmouth to kick things off.

In the meantime, I ask that you pledge yourself to actively attending the meeting and planning a course of action... a course that we need to take in these post-pill mill days.

If you are a member of Facebook but not a member of Fix the Scioto County Facebook group, join now here:!/groups/329651420196/?bookmark_t=group

Thank you so much,
Frank R. Thompson
Creator of Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse Facebook Group

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