News and Tribune

May 15, 2013

Grassroots Prevention Coalition symposium focuses on awareness, education

By AMANDA ARNOLD
newsroom@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —

Roy Sheryl shared his story of fighting addiction with a small group this week. He said he also knew people who lost their fight to addiction, and within a year he attended seven funerals. 

Sheryl explained that for him it has been a long journey that began with a rough childhood that did not teach him how to properly cope with his emotions. He started using drugs because he wanted to try everything at least once, but that eventually became the addiction disease. 

“It wasn’t until I got tired of my own life that I wanted to change. It’s hard to reach out to people until they’re fed up with their life,” he said.

The Grassroots Prevention Coalition of Clark County strives to get the word out to the public about the harms that drugs and alcohol represent to our community’s young population. During the Town Hall Symposium at the Community Action of Southern Indiana building on Tuesday evening — which Sheryl attended — several speakers from Clark County shared their thoughts on the issue. 

Jackie Love, director of Grassroots Prevention Coalition of Clark County, explained that the symposiums are held to educate those who struggle with addiction, people who work with such clients and anyone interested in preventing addiction in the community. 

John Ambers, director of Outpatient and Addiction Services at Wellstone Hospital, shared that within one year he attended five funerals for people who suffered drug- or alcohol-related deaths under the age of 25. Ambers, who participates regularly with the Grassroots Prevention Coalition, explained that the objective of the group is the focus on substance abuse that affects children.

“We need to educated young people about the dangers of alcohol and other substances, instead of them living in the myth that they learned from family and friends,” Ambers said.

He added that alcohol is especially harmful to young people because it hampers developing brains. According to Ambers, education should begin at least by the freshman year of high school. 

Ambers explained that addiction is challenging in general because it alters one’s mental capacity, physical being and spiritual center. 

“The whole sense of right and wrong is corrupted, and it needs repaired,” he said. “The brain needs to heal, and it could take a year or longer.” 

His worry is that people show little concern over the addiction epidemic because many believe that it will not happen to them. However, he believes with enough persistence from organizations such as the Grassroots Prevention Coalition of Clark County, more awareness will eventually happen. 

He compared the efforts to another fight. When grassroots groups first targeted the tobacco industry, awareness eventually grew. He believes the same will happen with drug and alcohol use.

Julie Schwerer, director of Bliss House, agreed that awareness is the key. She also stressed the importance of educating parents of grown children who suffer from addiction because often the parents of the addict are enablers. While there are a variety of 12-step programs that are specifically for family members of addicts, Schwerer explained that it is a challenge to get them to attend.   

Sgt. Jerry Goodin with the Indiana State Police agreed that it is critical to distribute the message of the dangers of substance abuse and alcohol abuse. As a member of law enforcement, he sees how the problem affects the safety of the community.  

“I’m trying to help with solutions to get them from doing even doing the drugs and alcohol,” he said.

Sheryl has been clean for one year and eight months, and he hopes that through the coalition, others can receive the message to get help. 

“I’m hoping that there are less deaths. This is a disease,” said Sheryl.