Clark County Cares Drug -2 (copy)

Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel speaks to attendees at an event during last year's Clark County CARES Drug Facts Week at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. 

CLARK COUNTY — Next week marks the start of the fourth annual Clark County CARES Drug Facts Week, a free lineup of community events dedicated to seeking solutions to Southern Indiana's drug and addiction crisis and offering resources and support.

The week kicks off Monday with the MLK Unity March from Quartermaster Station to First Trinity Baptist Church, a partnership between the Clark County NAACP and Clark County CARES, followed by a panel discussion with a focus on how addiction may affect people of color in the community.

As the week unfolds, each day will offer a different opportunity to discuss how addiction is affecting the community — what's happening in schools and how to address the issue with the youngest residents, how businesses have been impacted by addiction and what some have done to evolve and offer support, and how grandparents who have found themselves raising their grandchildren can find support.

On Thursday, attendees of a special dinner can hear from local judges and health officials before keynote speaker Jim McClelland, executive director of Indiana Drug Treatment, Prevention and Enforcement discusses where Indiana is and the direction in which it is heading on the response to the effects of drugs and addiction in the state.

Friday will offer the chance for people to cut loose and meet new friends in the recovery community at a free concert featuring bands, food, speakers and addiction resources. Sunday wraps up with a candlelight vigil at the Big Four Bridge to honor those who have lost their battle with addiction.

Clark County CARES member Carolyn King said the goal each year is to bring new ideas and to learn from one another. The lineup and focus evolves annually as the community changes.

"Each year, we kind of prioritize what we think are the important issues to be working on because there are so many," King said. "I think it's been a great vehicle for leadership, the legal system, police, health [officials] to really get feedback, that we talk back and forth about what needs to be done."

Out of the annual events, and the continual partnerships in the community between Clark County CARES and others, big steps have been taken to help improve the health, safety and potential of recovery.

"I think it's been an effective way to address issues as they arise," she said, adding that overdose deaths are down due in part to the syringe exchange program, and education about and availability of lifesaving drugs such as Narcan, which can reverse an overdose death.

A key addition this year is the Friday concert, which brings with the chance to start building a recovery community in Southern Indiana.

It will include information tables, and the Clark County Health Department will have its mobile unit there, offering HIV and Hepatitis C testing. It will also offer the chance for people in recovery to offer support to one another, to show that getting well and living productive lives is possible.

Concert organizer Tony Hostetler said fostering that growth can be crucial in saving lives and providing support to those who are addicted and seeking help to get or stay sober, and don't know where to turn.

This could mean having someone to talk to on tough days or while working through recovery, knowing where to go to not return to the situation that helped enable use.

"Just sitting down talking one-on-one to another addict that's in recovery helps a lot," Hostetler said, adding that it's "just trying to connect some dots, just trying to let people know that help is out there."

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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