Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

February 18, 2014

Drug-free coalition eyes goals

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — At a two-hour planning retreat Feb. 3, Coalition for a Drug-Free Batesville members evaluated their voluntary efforts since the group was loosely formed in late 2011.

Nicole Schiesler, Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati strategies director, led the discussion. First she distributed a handout of seven strategies for community change formulated by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America National Coalition Institute: provide information, enhance skills, provide support, reduce barriers, change consequences, physical design and change policies.

Schiesler asked about CDFB successes so far. Batesville Community School Corp. superintendent Dr. Jim Roberts reported the AlcoholEdu® for High School online program, created by EverFi, Washington, D.C., is in the beginning phases of implementation at Batesville High School and Oldenburg Academy. “That was a big success” made possible by a $30,755 Indiana Family and Social Services Administration grant that will fund it for four years.

BHS associate principal Brad Stoneking said the noncredit, mandatory alcohol course will be taken in health classes. He, principal Andy Allen and health teacher Connie Dickman participated in a phone conference with EverFi officials. “We did get some vital information about it that we did like.”

Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Melissa Tucker said speaker Chad Vargas, who overcame a challenging childhood because of his mother’s drug use, and the current online Community Perception Survey were other wins.

Choices Program/SADD director Cindy Blessing liked seeing the coalition partner with other groups, such as area police volunteers and the Batesville Mayor’s Youth Council, on National Night Out Aug. 5, 2013.

The Rev. Larry Dimick of Batesville United Methodist Church said the promotion of a prescription drug disposal program should make a difference. He also remembered the “We’re not Going to Take It” billboard campaign to discourage illegal drug use.

Roberts maintained that Police Chief Stan Holt, co-chair of CDFB with Mayor Rick Fledderman, “and the police force have done an outstanding job of nipping some things in the bud.” With the help of the Indiana State Police, U.S. Marshals Service in Indianapolis, Ripley County Prosecutor’s Office and Jinx, a 54-pound Dutch shepherd and her trainer, Sgt. Danny Hamilton, 14 alleged drug dealers were arrested in the second half of 2012, significantly more than in past years.

Holt believed forming the volunteer Batesville Drug and Alcohol Response Team (DART) was helpful. “When we were dealing with a lot of arrests, there were families everywhere” needing addiction resources. Fledderman recalled, “We had a lot of people who didn’t know who to turn to.” Holt and other team members gave even anonymous callers some advice and options. However, now the number seeking help has dwindled.

Geralyn Litzinger, Margaret Mary Health community health director, said by collaborating with partners such as the hospital, schools and Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, “we’re able to reach more people” with information and events. Schiesler suggested CDFB members write for each other’s newsletters.

Local coalition coordinator Kim Linkel noted that discussing the possibility of random drug testing is advantageous. “Not too long ago it was dead in the water.”

According to Schiesler, LaSalle, a Cincinnati private male high school, will do mandatory drug testing starting in the fall. Six to eight students daily over the school year will be tested. Roberts said, “We just don’t have that option with a public school setting.” If testing is instituted, “we have to find a way to get the largest pool,” which could be student drivers. Schiesler explained why LaSalle officials will begin testing: “They had two major issues. A young man was killed after giving a dealer counterfeit money. The other was a suicide attempt in the classroom during the day.” School officials decided, “‘We have to do something.’”

Linkel said she’s encouraged more area citizens want to be involved with the coalition. On the survey, 20 out of 300 respondents so far checked that box.

Despite failing to get a federal Drug Free Communities annual $125,000 grant for up to five years by 1 point, the coalition has attracted smaller amounts, including $1,500 from Belterra riverboat revenue-sharing funds, $200 from Cierra’s Club and a Batesville Tool & Die donation.

Schiesler said, “I was reviewing your logic models. Your problem is youth are using opiates. Why? They are available. There’s a lack of knowledge of the harms of using prescription drugs. How are you going to show you’re making an impact on that?” Litzinger answered, “That’s one of the reasons we talked about the prescription disposal. We were encouraging parents and grandparents to get them out of their homes” so teens wouldn’t have as much access to them. Schiesler recommended educating the public about not sharing prescription medications.

Goals have to be listed on the federal grant application, which Linkel will write and submit by March 24. “How will you increase collaboration?” asked the Cincinnati discussion leader. Blessing recommended getting teen members to serve on CDFB.

CDFGC employee Amanda Conn Starner wondered, “Is the coalition viewed as an invitation-only group?” Yes, but it is open to anyone, members said. Citizens are invited to meetings on each month’s first Monday from 11 a.m.-noon in the Memorial Building third floor conference room. Schiesler said to think about what volunteers can do to help, especially if they are unable to attend daytime meetings. “I like the idea of building the membership up a little bit and getting rid of the stigma” that coalition members must be invited to join.

Starner asked if CDFB had a social media presence. “That might be a simple win” to add it.

Schiesler said the Web site easily could be updated by BHS students. It was started during a series of drug forums in 2011 and has drug abuse resources.

Starner suggested getting a Narcotics Anonymous group off the ground here, especially since the closest one in Brookville recently closed so now members must travel to the Greater Cincinnati area to attend meetings.

In Cincinnati, one of that coalition’s strategies is to train parents and teachers about how to talk to kids about drugs. “We’re in the process of revamping” the one-hour presentation, Schiesler said. According to Dimick, “We’d definitely be interested in following up on that.” CDFGC also has a coach’s guide about the effects of drugs and how to talk to athletes about them.

Fledderman said leaders at Cierra’s Club, Choices and Southeastern Indiana YMCA should coordinate the safe, drug-free activities they plan.

Holt suggested planning monthly meetings for the public with specific topics, such as excise police work or treatment centers recommended by probation officers.

When asked about upcoming activities to prevent substance abuse, Linkel reported the “Bounce” sixth-grade reading curriculum will be started at Batesville Middle School and “Bounce” books will be purchased for the St. Louis School library. Varga wrote a book called “Bounce” with the theme “Down is inevitable, up is a choice.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.