Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

October 2, 2012

Response team suggested

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

— Batesville Police Chief Stan Holt told Coalition for a Drug-Free Batesville members it’s time to act instead of just attending monthly meetings to strategize.

He pointed out, “A lot of times law enforcement is the first contact with families” of addicts. He suggested Sept. 14 forming a Batesville Drug and Alcohol Response Team (BDART) comprised of different community sectors – police, law, faith, hospital, mental health and a parent of a former addict. When a family member or the individual calls for help with substance abuse issues, a person with certain expertise could offer treatment options and more advice.

The chief noted, “It’s great to have Web site information, but we need human contact ... I’ll get a call at home at 10 or 11 o’clock at night – it would be nice to have a cellphone contact,” so a BDART volunteer could say, “‘Here is who you need to talk to.’”

Often the police are not called about problems because “the parents are afraid the kid’s going to get arrested ... the majority of the time, thatís not the case.”

Forming a response team “would impact a lot of families ... and (we would) see results.”

Tom Horninger, Brookville, said, “There’s an element we haven’t talked about here, a constituency not represented ... a recovered userî to reason with an addict. “I know there are a lot of therapists out there who are recovered, clean, who have the ability to bring – a different perspective.”

Would the team help heroin addicts only? was a question posed by the meeting’s leader, Tommy Koopman, Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati  local coalition development manager. Holt said the group could serve persons with alcohol and drug issues.

The chief suggested, “We stay with them throughout that fight, trying to help that family.”

He said with the help of BDART, between an arrest and a court date, a person could perhaps get counseling or attend group meetings. “How great would it be by the time they show up for court to say, ‘This is everything I’m doing to get my life back ... This would give them a little bit of hope.”

John Mallery, Community Mental Health Center Outpatient Services Division director, said too often addicts  “wait wait wait (to get help), then they’re arrested and forced into treatment when they’re not ready for treatment or itís not the right kind of treatment. If there is a way to divert them to the right people and support (before being arrested), it definitely makes sense to me.î

Coalition members mulled who the first contact person should be. The chief said a Batesville Police Department dispatcher could be called, then he or she could pass the message to Holt 24/7.

Choices director Cindy Blessing reported, “As a parent, I would be scared to death to call the police. If it were somebody from the faith community – kind of a neutral person,” that might be less intimidating.

Local coalition coordinator Kim Linkel pointed out, “We don’t want kids to be scared of the police – they’re here to help us. They want to better the community, just the same as we do.”

Koopman asked about resource persons besides Holt. He hoped others could commit by the next meeting.

“One of the strongest tools” to fight addictions is belonging to Narcotics Anonymous, maintained Horninger. One of his relatives “is involved in two dynamic NA groups in northern Kentucky” also attended by several Batesville youth. “A lot of times these kids feel isolatedî” due to past drug use. “They walk into a room that has a bunch of people their age dealing with getting clean and staying clean.”

Horninger added, “What makes a lot of the NA groups successful (in Kentucky), they are involved in the music scene,” and offer concerts, which gives teens and adults something to do.

An NA group for inmates formed in the Franklin County Security Center in early September, reported Melinda Brown,  Franklin County Stayiní Alive executive director.  ìThe next step is to take it to the communityî and form a separate group which would be much closer for area residents than Kentucky.

Besides this good news, she brought bad news. The Batesville coalition was one of 43 that applied for a $75,000 U.S. Office of Drug Control Policy Drug Free Communities Support Program grant. The federal grant requires a one-to-one match. Six were awarded and “we were not one of them,” said Brown, one of the grant writers. Although very disappointed, “we’re still continuing to move forward” to find other funding sources.

Coalition members will attend an all-day retreat Oct. 8 in the Memorial Building’s third floor conference room.Goals are to begin and finalize a heroin model, all the way up to strategies; and also to turn over coalition leadership from Koopman to a local person. He predicted, “I think we’ll be amazed at the progress we make that day.”