Sunday night was the closing of a whirlwind week for Clark County CARES. So much was offered to the community during Drug Facts Week, when people came to listen, even more watched on Facebook. It was something to behold. Those suffering the disease of addiction participated, as did those who were the families of those in recovery and seeking recovery came. Professionals who work with those affected were there, as were people who just wanted to know the language, the reality, and the hope offered by everyone who participated.

Clark County CARES is five years old now and the strength of the grassroots community effort never ceases to amaze me. A group of dedicated volunteers met every Monday at 8:30 to plan for this event, and then throughout the year we were meeting monthly. There is a lot of dedication and commitment from a very diverse group of people, many of whom have been involved from the very beginning.

In this time frame we have witnessed the effect of the needle exchange program, the beginnings of new recovery efforts in our community through the Summit, SunRise Recovery, BreakAway House, and the expanded and very affective programs created and operated by LifeSprings, Wellstone, and the Southern Indiana Treatment Center and so much more.

In 2015 we had 97 deaths due to opioids and overdoses; this past year, we had 47. That is huge. A lot of that is from the education offered to the community and their embracing of that education. Lives who will never be replaced were read name by name Sunday night. As you listened, the tears welled up at the loss of life, talent, and promise that would never be known. As the names were read, you could see the pain of those left behind and those still trying to grasp the loss. It was very moving. In all of that, what was most poignant was the silence so respectfully given and the feeling that at that moment in time, we were all family.

That is perhaps the greatest strength of Clark County CARES — it is family. Comprised of nurses, judges, social workers, moms, those in recovery, pastors, and interested citizens working together on a common goal: Developing a Recovery Oriented System of Care in this community. In a community this size, our jail is full (670 people) with many of those in jail for drugs or drug-related crimes. It has caused a total disruption to families, to the community, and to the future. So many children are born in this state addicted right now, and we have to know there will be a price for that, while even more are in the care of their grandparents or family members, or in foster care.

So much help and aid is given to us to pull this week together and to work on the issue as we can. The support is strong. We owe much to the Jeffersonville City Council, Lisa Gill, LifeSprings Mental Health Center, Clark Memorial Health (Martin Padgett and Alicia Rousseau) St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Sheriff Jamey Noel, Councilman Scottie Maples, Jeffersonville Police and Assistant Chief Scott McVoy, Judges Brad Jacobs and Andrew Adams, Dr. Eric Yazel and the Clark County Health Department, Brett Wilson, and Dr. Kevin Burke, Carolyn King, Malinda Mackenzie, Beth Stutsman, Deb Bullet and Freedom 101, Haven House Services, the News and Tribune, Channel 32, and Channel 11, and Wellstone. Without these folks none of this would happen. The foundation was laid with Pastor Nancy Woodworth-Hill and has grown tremendously. What has grown the most is the commitment to help those seeking recovery and offer support, education, and a friendly hand to encourage and support them through their journey.

I say all of this to say without the community coming together, recovery would not be as available as it is today. We have far to go before we sleep. More recovery houses are needed, for women, for men, and for families. Support systems and employment opportunities are needed. During my 37 years of serving this area’s homeless through Haven House, I witnessed the pain and agony addiction brought to both those dealing with it and those who loved them. It was always hard and always painful. So many mothers cried, so many people needing help left without it because there wasn’t help to be had.

That has changed, and I think in large part because of the response of a wonderful community that cares. So many times I have witnessed human suffering and great kindness that helped to heal that suffering, it is without a doubt the hardest thing I have done, to comfort someone who has lost so much. Clark County CARES has in many ways wrapped its collective arms around those suffering and offered hope. What a wonderful way to serve.

Barbara Anderson is a local human rights activist. Contact her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com.

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