Last Friday, the Kentuciy Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP) partnered with the Healthy Hometown Coalition and hosted it’s annual drug forum at Albany First Methodist Church, bringing several speakers to the podium for the mid-day forum with insight to several aspects of what happens when someone is caught using or selling drugs.
KY ASAP Coordinator Tyler Young opened the forum with introductions and said the purpose of the drug forum is to inform the community and educate residents on the dangers of drugs.
“Everybody probably knows someone whose life has been affected by drugs or maybe your own life … through family members or friends,” Young said “This is very important. We take this very seriously.”
The forum’s first speaker was 40th Judicial Circuit Commonwealth Attorney Jesse Stockton.
“If you get caught with some drugs, then you go to circuit court and could be charged with a felony,” Stockton said. “Once you get charged with a felony, you can’t get it off your record. It will stay with you the rest of your life. You lose your right to vote, your right to carry a gun and your right to hunt. It has some serious consequences.”
Stockton spoke on the consequences of being caught with methamphedamine or prescription drugs.
“The worst thing about our drug and pill problem is it creates a stigma for the people who legitimately need this type of medication,” Stockton said. “The ones who are using it to just get high, they are the ones creating the problem for society.”
Stockton said not only are the drugs a huge problem in Clinton County, but it leads to other crimes and during the past couple of years, Clinton County has been plagued with a rise in home theft, which Stockton believes is a by-product of the drug community.
“They will get anything they can get cash for,” Stockton said. “When people have an addiction, they will do things they normally wouldn’t do and they will do anything to support their habit … that includes stealing.”
In Monroe County, Stockton said he has five murder cases pending at the moment, three of which are drug related.
“In one case, two individuals went into a home trying to find some pills and when they couldn’t find any they beat an old lady to death with an ax handle … if the drug problem gets out of control, the violent crimes will follow.”
Among the people in attendance for Friday’s drug forum was Kentucky State Senator Sara Beth Gregory, along with a representative from the Kentucky State Police, Barry Cross and Arlin Mink representing Drug Court as well as Jelaine Harlow, Health Educator for Lake Cumberland District Health Department in Adair and Casey counties.
Also in attendance at the forum was District Judge Scarlet Latham, who deals with drug offenders on a daily basis.
Although without the afore mentioned forum attendees the event would not be possible, the group representing the most important people in attendance were among those in the audience – including several students from Clinton County schools ranging from middle to high school levels.
According to most of the speakers at Friday’s forum, drug problems with usually starts in the middle school level.
Cross followed Stockton and talked about his job within the drug court system.
“What we try to do in drug court is not only focus on their drug addiction, but their life as a whole,” Cross said. “These people in drug court have lost their families, they’ve lost their jobs, they lose their homes, they lose their self respect and self esteem. The average age they start using is middle school age.”
Cross said out of the three counties he is responsible for, out of 60 cases, 85 percent deal with prescription drug abuse.
“As a community, talk to your local doctor, and ask if you really have to have these drugs,” Cross said. “That’s where it starts. I’m not bashing doctors because we have to have them, but we have to realize the drugs are getting out there. We have to keep everybody in check.”
Arlin Mink, case specialist for Monroe, Clinton and Cumberland counties, followed Cross. Mink works with Cross in the drug court system and both see first hand how the drug problem affects each community.
“I really can’t say enough about this program,” Mink said. “It’s saved a lot of lives and it’s saved the state money.”
Young took the podium after Mink and talked about some of the new things Clinton County will be getting through the KY ASAP program. One of which, will be a prescription drug lock box.
“This box will be placed at the police station and it will be a safe place for people to drop off unused prescriptions,” Young said. “If you have medications that the doctors prescribed you and you didn’t take, this box will be a safe place for you to drop these off. It’s going to be under law enforcement care, so you know when you drop these off that they are going to be disposed of in a safe way and they are not going to be getting into the hands of addicts, dealers and especially kids.”
Healthy Hometown Coalition Coordinator April Speck spoke on her role in the community and what Healthy Hometown is.
“Healthy Hometown is intended to engage in a broad spectrum of community partners to promote the physical, and behavioral health and well being of children ages 5-18 years old,” Speck said. “Almost four out of 10 people from the ages of 10 and 17 are overweight or obese.”
The forum concluded with Harlow giving statistics on health issues in Clinton County resulting from a recent survey conducted in the county.
“What can Clinton County do? Obviously, right now, you are working on risky behaviors which is one of the top points the survey addressed,” Harlow said. “I work in several counties and I can say having this drug forum doesn’t happen everywhere. Speaking from someone who doesn’t live in the county, you all are really moving forward and you have a lot of good things going on and that’s great.”