Forum to address meth issue

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, August 1, 2018

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Organizers of next week’s community forum on methamphetamine hope it will be the beginning of a new day in Wise County – one that sees methamphetamine loosen its grip on our area.

The forum will take place at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 in the Women’s Building at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur. The location was moved from the sheriff’s office to accommodate more people who might want to attend.

The idea for a community discussion about how to tackle the problem of methamphetamine began from a Facebook post written a few weeks ago by Sheriff Lane Akin.

Akin said 85 percent of the people in the Wise County Jail are there for crimes directly tied to meth, possession or transporting the drug, or indirectly committing thefts or other crimes while abusing the drug.

It was a post that got quite a bit of reaction.

“People were offering up ideas, mostly about recovery and rehabilitation,” Akin said.

The sheriff is working with Wise Health System to put on the community forum aimed at finding ways to address the methamphetamine issue in the county. Akin said he’d like to initiate a program focused on rehabilitation and recovery that will help people who are arrested for methamphetamine-related offenses.

Jordan Holzbog, manager of population and community health improvement at Wise Health System, is working with Akin to organize the forum, which will feature an opening presentation by Akin and Chief Deputy Craig Johnson followed by a time of questions and answers. Those questions will be submitted on a notecard, and Holzbog and others will then relay the questions to the panel.

“We’re really excited. I think it will hopefully result in some really good ideas,” she said.

Holzbog said the patients using methamphetamine that come through the hospital often have other issues as well.

“It might be someone who has long-term pain or an underlying mental illness that’s not diagnosed … Most people who have a drug problem also have a mental illness. They use drugs as a coping mechanism,” she said.

The forum is expected to last 6 to 7:30 p.m., and anyone in the community who is concerned about issues related to methamphetamine use is invited. Akin said in addition to law enforcement and hospital representatives, he expects representatives from different rehabilitation and recovery groups will also attend and possibly some former methamphetamine users who will share their experiences.

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