Roundtable forum held concerning drug abuse

Published 3:01 pm Friday, March 22, 2019

A two-hour roundtable forum was held Thursday night by the Bell County League of Women Voters to discuss the drug abuse problems in the Bell County community.

Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson, Pineville Mayor Scott Madon and Bell County Jailer Gary Ferguson were in attendance to lead the discussion and take questions from the audience of approximately 35 citizens.

“As we all know, the ripples of drug addiction are felt throughout our community from torn apart families,” League of Women Voters representative Susan Leo said, “Stretched thin EMS workers, financial strains, and in cities and jails and hospital. Hopefully we’ll come away with concrete ways that we as citizens can assist in this terrible problem.”

Among the topics discussed were bringing a long-term rehabilitation center to Bell County, working to find employment opportunities for recovered addicts, and the creation of a county-wide position to tackle specific needs for the group.

Represented among the groups at the meeting included UNITE, Middlesboro Main Street and, new to the community, Celebrate Recovery.

“We’re starting Celebrate Recovery at New Heights on May 2, that’s our kick-off day,” Celebrate Recovery Ministry Leader Vonnie Ellis explained. “We’re going to have groups for addicts, alcoholics, and we will also have a teen program even to deal with those issues. We have a big vision, and God is a healer.”

Tinsie King, community member and recovery advocate discussed with the group the importance of educating children from a young age.

“You’re talking every other house,” King said. “All these kids, they know what’s going on. They’re seeing their parents hallucinate and doing different things. We need to start educating them at a younger age.”

The community members agreed that the latest law in Kentucky was an excellent resource for educating children on these issues.

The group is going to initiate a monthly meeting to coordinate with groups and entities who want to get involved with coming to a solution to helping those caught up in addiction and substance abuse.

“Where do we start,” Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson asked. “Where do we go from here? I think the pastor was key to touching on the faith based. Do you know we’ve got more churches in Middlesboro than we do schools or restaurants? We need the people of Middlesboro to come together and have a bigger group instead of several small groups.”

Nelson pointed out that churches are an untapped resource.

Pineville Mayor Madon is in support of a long-term rehabilitation facility that is rurally located instead of being placed in the downtown areas.

“I think we need a long-term facility,” Madon said. “We teach them how to get off drugs, but the teaching will teach job training and that’s an undertaking. I’m all for it and I support it, if it’s done in the right way.”

“It makes it difficult for me to just sit and see everything that goes on because everything that happens in the community funnels to the jail,” Ferguson said. “I mean it’s like a pipeline, and I would say of the 100 percent of the inmates that we have in the facility that probably 90 percent or better are in there because of drugs one way or another.”

Before closing the meeting, it was decided by the League of Women Voters to send out email notifications and newspaper community calendar reminders when the next meeting will take place. The meeting is open and the community is encouraged to attend.