Allen County is looking for help from outside law enforcement agencies in the fight against drug abuse.
Formed early last year, the Allen County Prescription Drug Initiative has sought to raise community awareness of prescription drug abuse and aims to complement recent grant-aided law enforcement efforts to combat illegal drugs.
Allen County Sheriff Sam Carter said prescription drug abuse, trafficking and doctor shopping are problems with which his office has to contend regularly.
The challenge comes with addressing a problem originating from a product that most people are obtaining legally for legitimate purposes, Carter said.
“One of the biggest concerns is that kids are getting prescription drugs from ma and grandma ... and it’s just dangerous,” Carter said.
The sheriff’s office was awarded a $469,199 federal grant last fall by the U.S. Department of Justice that consists of two components.
The first component has dealt with enforcing local drug laws and improving criminal investigations, and has helped pay for a detective, deputy and project director and the purchases of four trucks and all-terrain vehicles to aid in investigations in isolated, rural areas of the county.
The second leg of the grant, dealing with drug prevention programs, begins this month.
A community youth drug prevention event is being organized by the sheriff’s office, Community Development Alliance and Scottsville Faith Coalition for April 24, to coincide with Scottsville’s annual Jacksonian Festival.
Long term, the grant will fund a series of community policing meetings, held at volunteer fire departments throughout the county, to educate people on crime prevention techniques and personal safety.
“What we have to do is prevention, education and, honestly, rehabilitation,” Carter said. “If 10 percent of Allen County has some sort of dependency problem, that’s 2,000 people in a small county. Our jail only holds 120, and we can’t put 2,000 people in jail.”
The county prescription drug initiative has brought together law enforcement, medical providers, pharmacists, judges and educational and community leaders to assess prescription drug abuse in the community and formulate ways to raise awareness and prevent further abuse.
Eric Hagan, administrator for The Medical Center in Scottsville, said the work of the initiative at this point involves marshaling community support and informing the public about their work.
Several discussions among committee members about drug abuse going back a year have been illuminating, though.
“I think one of the biggest things we’ve identified with prescription drugs is that people see this medicine as their medicine and they have a right to do what they want with it,” Hagan said. “I guess from the younger population’s perspective, they see it as a legal way of getting high.
“That’s the two big obstacles we have to get past to get people to understand, just because you were given a prescription doesn’t mean you can just give someone in your family who has pain your prescription.”
Hagan said that health care providers participating in the initiative see as their responsibility educating the community about the appropriate use of controlled substances.
Relying on prescription drugs to treat chronic pain, for instance, can be dangerous because chronic use can lead to addiction, Hagan said.
“If pain continues, you really need to consider other alternatives (for treatment),” Hagan said.
A public forum in 2008 to address methamphetamine attracted more than 600 attendees at Allen County-Scottsville High School.
The work of the county prescription drug initiative goes on in the hope that discussions of controlled substance abuse become just as prevalent.
“As much focus as we have on meth, really we should have as much if not more focus on prescription drugs,” Hagan said.