Local leaders outline need for drug, alcohol coalition


The program will be eligible for grant money.

By D.a. Wilkinson

LISBON — Columbiana County community leaders will form a Drug and Alcohol Coalition to help change the culture to reduce alcohol and drug abuse.

Kathy Chaffee, the associate director of the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, said recently that the effort will take time.

Chaffee and Kim Steele-Simmons, the director of human services technology at Kent State University’s branches in Salem and East Liverpool, recently outlined the ongoing effort.

The program began last year in response to concerns about the rising chemical abuse and related crime in the county.

Chaffee said that various community members decided that a program was needed. The Columbiana County Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition is expected to announce its formation early next year and then get rolling.

About 90 people are involved already, including 23 people on the steering committee. When the program starts, it will be eligible for grant money to fund programs.

The coalition’s vision statement calls for a community free of harmful-substance use and abuse.

Its mission statement calls for it to collaborate with the community to promote healthful lifestyles.

That may seem obvious, but the coalition plans to first attack underage drinking.

Alcohol remains the No. 1 drug of abuse in the county, according to Chaffee.

Statistics from the Drug Free Action Alliance show that lifetime alcohol dependence increases the earlier a child begins to drink.

Some 45 percent of children under age 14 who begin to drink will have a lifetime problem. The percentage drops to 17 percent for 18-year-olds and drops to 10 percent for adults who start drinking at 21.

County experts on maternal and child health said that women of child-bearing age and young adults are a concern. Medical experts in the county told the coalition that infants and children whose parents are drug abusers are among the top risk groups in the county.

A study showed that 40 percent of 565 students in grades seven and 10 said they had been at one or more parties in the last year at which kids their same age were drinking.

The experts said they found that youths get their alcohol locally from older friends.

In researching the local problem, the effort found no fault by legal authorities, or a lack of transportation to enrichment activities, which can decrease abuse.

The county is officially part of Appalachia. The committee will focus on fatalism, or the belief that people cannot control their future, which is part of an Appalachian mind-set. However, chemical-abuse rates are no different than in other areas.

The Appalachian mind-set is very practical, especially with mothers, Chaffee said. The change may be made if parents can tell children about opportunities and better options for living.

Steele-Simmons said that people change when “people believe there is hope to.”

One approach, she added, may be to get youths to look at the situation in a less fatalistic way.

Better communication, and gathering more, would also help change the mind-set, she said.

It will take time to reverse the trend, especially in the present poor economy.

“We won’t be able to tell in a few weeks if it’s making a difference,” Chaffee said.

wilkinson@vindy.com

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