Clark County Cares Drug -2 (copy) (copy)

Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel speaks to attendees at an event during the 2018 Clark County CARES Drug Facts Week at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Jeffersonville. The weeklong community event will be held this year from Jan. 20 through 26.

JEFFERSONVILLE — Five years ago, Southern Indiana residents were just starting to figure out how to get a grasp on what was happening in their communities with the opioid epidemic. There were questions, fears, misunderstanding.

This is how Clark County CARES, a group of local community members from various sectors including law enforcement and health officials was formed, to help start the conversations that needed to happen to help the recovery.

On Jan. 20, the organization will hold its fifth Drug Facts Weeks — a weeklong series of panels, discussions and celebrations centered around where things are today.

Brad Jacobs, Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 judge who chairs Clark County CARES, said he's seen big changes in the community itself in the past several years since people started having honest conversations about addiction, whether through this organization or others in the community.

"I think [compared to] where it was five to 10 years ago, we're leaps and bounds ahead of that now," he said. "We still have a long way to go, but it's encouraging."

A big part of the change, he said, has been in the reduction of stigma surrounding addiction

"It used to be 'those people,'" he said, referring to how people experiencing addiction were often referred to or thought of. "And people don't talk in those terms anymore. Now it's 'us' or at least speaking with terms of sympathy."

As the stigma is broken down, Jacobs said he hopes that can mean more real change.

"If nothing else, we've at least gotten the dialogue," he said. "When we have these events and everyone is speaking to one another, you see 'I don't need to be ashamed of my son or my nephew who is in jail because this person's son or nephew or daughter is in the same position."'

This year's Drug Facts Week will kick off with an in-depth panel on day one, moderated by Jacobs and featuring speakers including health and law professionals, law enforcement and those from the recovery community. As a sort of 'state of the county,' it will cover where things stand in various sectors of the community.

"You can go there and from every department you can hear what's going well, what's maybe not going well and what we're looking forward to for the future," Kathy Copas, event consultant for Clark County CARES, said. "It's an incredible group of people that really have their pulse on the epidemic and what's being done and what we maybe could do."

And each of the following seven days holds something equally important in the discussion. Copas said in planning this year's event, "there was an intense discussion around what are the things this year that we really want to lift up for the community and share around this issue and several things emerged this year," she said.

There will be sessions for business leaders, to get advice on things such as assisting employees who may be experiencing addiction and handling drug screens, discussions on the intersection of addiction and suicide. At a special dinner Thursday, speakers will include Anne C. Hazlett. senior advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and Indiana Drug Czar Douglas Huntsinger.

Also new this year is that two days will be specifically for people within the recovery community to support one another — one featuring music and fellowship, the next for those experiencing addiction to also gather with their families for fun, food and games.

"It's really important because in the recovery community, the most important thing is mutual support," Copas said.

Clark County CARES 2020 Drug Facts Week, Jan. 20 through 26

• Monday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m., St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 321 E. Market St., Jeffersonville

"Building Pathways to Recovery" — This kickoff panel discusses the state of Clark County today as it relates to addiction, including how it has evolved over the past several years. Panelists include judges, law enforcement, health officials and those in recovery.

• Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 8 a.m., Carriage House at the Howard Steamboat Museum, 1101 E. Market St., Jeffersonville

"Hope Lies in Recovery" — This free breakfast session will focus on the intersection of opioid and other addiction issues and suicide, led by members of Personal Counseling Services in Clarksville and other mental health professionals.

Reservations requested by Jan. 20 at recovery-in-the-workforce.eventbrite.com

• Wednesday, Jan. 22, 8 a.m., LifeSpring Community Room, 404 E. Spring St., Jeffersonville

"Recovery in the Workforce — A Special Time for Business and Industry" — This session will be a business and industry resource fair led by Mike Thibideau, director of Indiana Workforce Recovery at the Wellness Council of Indiana. It will include confidential advice and information for employers ranging from drug screening to assisting employees experiencing addiction.

• Thursday, Jan. 23, 5:30 p.m., Clark Memorial Health, 1220 Missouri Ave., Jeffersonville

"Gratitude Dinner: Creating a Recovery-Oriented Community" — This dinner presentation will focus on how far the community has come in recovery, and feature speakers Anne C. Hazlett. senior advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and Indiana Drug Czar Douglas Huntsinger. The dinner is free and open to all, but reservations are requested by Jan. 20.

Register at gratitude-dinner.eventbrite.com.

• Friday, Jan. 24, 6 to 8 p.m., EnVision Center, 1423 Bates-Bowyer Ave., Jeffersonville

"Recovery: It's a WE Thing" — This will be a memorial service to strengthen and support the recovery community, with music by Ceefor and spoken word by Aaron Spaulding.

• Saturday, Jan. 25, 1 to 4 p.m., EnVision Center, 1423 Bates-Bowyer Ave., Jeffersonville

"Recovery: It's a Family Thing!" — This event will support those in recovery and their families, free food, games and prizes.

• Sunday, Jan. 26, 5:45 p.m., at the foot of the Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville

"Candlelight Remembrance Service" — To remember loved ones lost to addiction, and lift up those experiencing grief or loss surrounding it.

Registration requested for the breakfast and dinner sessions, information included above. Fore more information, follow Clark County CARES on Facebook.

SOURCE: Clark County CARES

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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