Tackling drug, mental health issues

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 9, 2022

Commissioners set up Stepping Up program

At the Lawrence County Commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, the main topic was working on mental health and drug issues that plague the community.

The commissioners also took time to hear from Impact Prevention regarding the commission proclaiming Oct. 23-31 as Red Ribbon Week, as well as Oct. 1-31 as Substance Misuse Prevention Month.

Email newsletter signup

Eddie Neel, the public information officer for Impact Prevention, spoke to the commission about the two events.

He thanked the commissioners for their support and explained that they do several youth-led activities, like last month’s suicide prevention walk in Ironton, throughout the year with strong support from the schools.

“It is a community effort,” he said.

He added that their focus this month was on Red Ribbon week.

The idea of red ribbons came about after the death of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, who was killed by drug cartel members in February 1985. After his death, friends and neighbors began to wear red ribbons to show their support for the cause Camarena died for. Since then it has become a national event.

Several members of Impact Prevention’s Youth Council were present and spoke about what they were doing for Red Ribbon week.

Stephanie Mootz, a senior at Rock Hill High School, explained one of their focuses is on mental health and they recently did an anonymous survey at the schools “to figure out what type of issues there are and what we have to be doing towards prevention.”

She said the survey showed that a lot of students are struggling with mental health and that issues like substance misuse, drinking and vaping all have roots in students trying to escape what they are feeling, and that the youth council is working to get mental health support systems into the schools.

Next up was Madison Kulgrove, a Rock Hill High School senior, who spoke about Red Ribbon week.

“(Enrique Camarena) was fighting to stop drug abuse and ended up dying to achieve his goal,” she said. “That is why we celebrate Red Ribbon week and try to end drug abuse.”

Gavin Simpson, a St. Joseph High School freshman, said they go to the elementary school during Red Ribbon week and give them lessons on healthy support systems and talk about not taking drugs from strangers.

“We do skits to make it kind of fun for them, but we are trying to convey our message,” he said.

Commissioner Colton Copley commended the Youth Council members and reiterated that their survey did show how mental health issues can lead some people into drug abuse. And he pointed out that substance abuse issues often land people in jail.

He said that went well with the item on the agenda where the commissioners passed a resolution supporting the Stepping Up of the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Government Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Foundation to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails, and resolving to implement an improvement project, track results and report on progress.

With the passage of the resolution, Lawrence County became the 60th county in Ohio to implement the Stepping Up program.

“Our goal is to address the ever-growing mental health issue here in Lawrence County,” Copley said. “We thank Judge (Donald) Capper for his desire to address mental health issues that affect the criminal justice system and we encourage everyone in Lawrence County to support the endeavor that’s ongoing.”

He said Capper can intercede at the misdemeanor level at the Lawrence County Municipal Court and the Lawrence County Common Pleas judges Andrew Ballard and Christen Finley both have some works in the drug courts to help prevent people from ending up in jail because of mental health and drug issues. He thanked all the judges, including Ironton Municipal Court Judge Kevin Waldo in helping people to avoid “being just another number.”

Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said agreed with Copley about the judges and their efforts.

“I do want to applaud all of them,” she said, adding that all the judges are heavily involved in dealing with the area’s drug crisis and in the effort to change the course Lawrence County is on. “Each of them have their own programs they are involved in and they are champions of change with this drug crisis, with this mental health crisis.”

She said that the program is also a way of keeping those with mental issues out of jail and get them connected to the help they need.

Holliday said the commissioners would be meeting with the judges and with Sallie Schisler, who is the pastor of the Christ Episcopal Church in Ironton and is involved in community drug issues, to help pick a coordinator for the Stepping Up program.

In other items on the agenda, the commissioners took the following actions:

• Approved floodplain permits submitted by the Lawrence County Soil and Water Conservation District including new permits for William Souerdike for filling and grading, brush removal and residential structure projects on parcel 18-137-1802.000 (Township Road 1134) and Michael Merritt for stream maintenance project at 850 County Road 5 and renewed permits for Charles E. and Susan H. Sammons for filling and grading, clearing and burning onsite brush (grubbing) projects at 320 Township Road 1086 and Perry Township for grading, culverts, paving and maintenance projects on township roads.

• Approved an EMS appropriation of $317,615.52 into N24-19C-061-092 as requested by Lori Morris, executive director of finance.

• Approved an EMS transfer of funds from N24-19C-061-092 to N23-19C-157-061 in the amount of $317,615.52.

• Approved a request for administrative services from the Ironton, Lawrence Community Action Organization.

• Received and filed correspondence from the county engineer regarding the Rome Township trustees storm water drain.

• Received the request for a speed study regarding County Road 15, aka Shaffer Hill, and referred it to the Lawrence County engineer.

• Approved a request from the Rome Township Trustees to tie into the county’s storm water line on Daisy Lane.