-- — Coalition for a Drug-Free Batesville members studied statistics Aug. 6 that gave them reasons to keep meeting monthly.
2011 data from Margaret Mary Community Hospital showed one homicide, 12 suicides and one attempted suicide. Ten persons arrived at the hospital with accidental or intentional drug overdoses. Eight under 20 visited due to alcohol and drug abuse.
Tommy Koopman, Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati local coalition development manager for outlying areas, who led the meeting, was alarmed at the lifetime use of heroin by Batesville High School students reported in the 2011 Indiana Prevention and Resource Center survey.
While 1.6 percent of juniors had tried heroin, that number jumped to 11 percent of seniors, “almost an eightfold increase.” That 11 percent was 8.6 percent higher than the state average.
Of the seniors familiar with the drug, 4.2 percent reported using it more than 40 times.
Twelve percent of juniors and 16 percent of seniors (7.7 percent higher than the state average) took prescription painkillers during their lifetimes that either weren’t prescribed for them or in higher doses than recommended. Again, 10.2 percent of seniors said they abused painkillers more than 40 times.
Choices director Cindy Blessing maintained BHS drug users are “all over the board, from the future farmers to the honor roll students to the jocks …”
Koopman asked coalition coordinator Kim Linkel to see if IPRC officials could reveal the demographics of users. He also wanted to know “of the 10.2 who reported monthly use of painkillers, how many also use heroin?”
Geralyn Litzinger, director of community health at MMCH, wondered, “These kids are no longer in school. What are they doing now?”
Batesville Police Department officials reported 18 drug arrests last year, 12 for marijuana and six for controlled substances. Some of the 86 thefts investigated by city police in 2011 were committed to pay for drug habits, Chief Stan Holt surmised.
Members agreed with two coalition statements formulated in June. “Mission: to promote and support all ages in the Batesville community in making healthy, responsible and legal choices around substance use.”
“Vision: All people who interact in the Batesville community will experience a safe and healthy environment.”
Franklin County Sheriff Ken Murphy said, “I think your vision statement is dead on the money,” emphasizing that people want to feel safe.
After discussing an Alcohol Logic Model the group created in June that listed why alcohol is so available and why there is a lack of consequences, Koopman suggested discussing a logic model for heroin,
“Why are we focusing on heroin?” asked the sheriff. “What I see is an addiction problem and right now it just happens to be heroin is the drug of choice … the reason we have a heroin problem is because we did a really good job taking care of methamphetamine” use.
Koopman said ultimately the coalition will focus on a combination, perhaps alcohol, marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
According to Community Mental Health Center executive director Tom Talbot, “we see a lot of people coming in for detox from heroin. Heroin in the last couple of years has spiked up significantly. It may even be a fourth of our admissions.”
Tom Horninger, Brookville, asked, “Have we talked at all about some of the new theories … some people are just predisposed to addiction? Your kid could be at risk genetically.” Blessing stressed, “That’s why we need to start with alcohol. They’re not starting with a needle in their arm.”
Murphy noted, “The problems that we run into day to day out here (drunken driving, domestic incidents and fights) are probably tenfold alcohol related compared to drugs” and Ripley County Sheriff Tom Grills agreed.
Blessing said teen drinking can’t be lessened until adults quit buying liquor for them, allowing parties and playing drinking games with them. Some parents “are in denial” about their kids’ substance abuse. “They don’t want to know. They need to be in their kids’ business.”
Eighteen dealers between 22-68 arrested by law enforcement officers in Franklin County July 19 won’t stop the illegal drug trade here, Murphy contended.
“The kids will travel to Cincinnati” to buy drugs. “Some sell to pay for their habit. It’s a much more complex issue than it was when some of us were growing up.” Now teens have cars and money. “It will amaze you the number of people who don’t hesitate to drive into Over the Rhine” to buy drugs.
Ben Halliburton, Batesville Christian Church youth and family life minister, said, “The kids in Batesville are making no effort to hide” their alcohol use. Using Twitter, he has seen messages (“Chasing shots with water at 8 a.m. … turning my stomach into a liquor store”) and a photo of someone passed out on a toilet.
Grills said he wants citizens to report underage drinking parties and other incidents immediately so deputies can investigate. Tips can be anonymous.
One member’s sister almost hit a teen passed out in the middle of a local road at 4 a.m. “She was scared to turn this group in. We want to stop the problem, but we’re fearful as well” of retribution.
Koopman wrote questions on a whiteboard that the coalition will tackle in coming months: “How do we flip the stigma” so it’s not acceptable for youth to drink liquor?
“How do we reduce the fear” so tips can be provided?
“How do we get parents to realize the threat is more than ‘just alcohol?’
“How do we get parents to realize it could happen to anyone?
“How do we educate parents about technology so they can understand what their children are doing?”
The Rev. Eric Bingaman of Batesville Christian Church, the Batesville Area Ministerial Association president, summed up the challenge: “Tobacco has been demonized in our culture … we haven’t done the same” with alcohol and drugs.
Debbie Blank can be contacted at 812-934-4343, Ext. 113; or debbie.blank@ batesvilleheraldtribune.com.