Columbiana County takes aim at drug abuse

By D.A. Wilkinson

The event will try to launch a community response against drug abuse.

SALEM — A suspected drug dealer was arrested last week across the street from the Columbiana County Municipal Court after a 100-mile-per-hour chase by police.

Detective Dan Downard, the head of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force, said that was actually the third drug arrest made recently on the road in front of the court building.

Drug abuse, Downard said, “is definitely a problem.”

The problem, he said, is increasing. To help solve it, the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and the Family Recovery Center will sponsor a program to try to reduce drug and alcohol abuse in the county.

Kathleen Chaffee, associate director of the recovery services board, said it isn’t clear what program or programs might be chosen. Broad, community-based programs are needed, she said.

A countywide effort is the first large-scale effort to deal with the problem.

County Prosecutor Robert Herron began to speak out about three years ago with little success when heroin became available in the county.

Herron, who will be one of the features speakers, recently said cocaine — both powdered and crack — and heroin are equally available in Salem.

Herron and other law enforcement officials say they believe that about 80 percent of all crimes are somehow tied to drug abuse.

Chaffee has other statistics, such as 38 percent of 10th-grade students in Columbiana County who were surveyed in 2007 said they had used alcohol in the last month. Some 23 percent reported using marijuana in the last year.

The problem is also a health issue.

Chaffee said that a person’s brain continues to develop through the ages of 18 to 21. Drug and alcohol abuse by teens and young adults hurt their faculties.

From the health standpoint, such damage “is 100 percent preventable,” she said.

There are other costs, such as higher insurance premiums, medical treatment, and lost productivity. Chaffee said local employers have had problems finding workers who could pass a drug test.

The Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and Family Recovery Center will sponsor a program from 7:45 to 10 a.m. April 25 at The Dutch Haus in Columbiana. There will be an overview of the drug and alcohol problem, and discussions on how coalitions promote solutions and commitments.

People representing all segments of the county will be invited. They will decide the approach they think will work in the county, Chaffee said. 

“Illegal drugs just eat away at the fiber of the community,” she said.

Downard said heroin “has definitely changed things.”

A “stamp” of heroin —¬† a small amount a user might go through in an evening — would cost $20.¬†Similarly, a gram of cocaine would cost $80 to $100, while rocks of crack cocaine would cost $20 to $50, he said.

Many people, of course, turn to crime to finance their drugs.

Downard won’t be at the meeting, although a representative of the task force will be there. Downard will be in Illinois, testifying in a federal case connected to another high speed chase in northern Columbiana County in early 2007.

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