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'Drug-Free' group having impact


March 28, 2012
It operates with little fanfare. Some people in Crawford County don't even know it exists. But a group called the Crawford County Council for a Drug-Free Community has been working behind the scenes for years, helping organizations and agencies deal with the drug epidemic that has done so much damage across the country.

The group, which is part of the Governor's Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana, operates as a local coordinating council (LCC) and implements comprehensive community plans which focus on substance abuse challenges through treatment, prevention and enforcement. Funded by fees charged by the local court in drug and alcohol cases, the LCC accumulates the fees then makes them available to various agencies and groups by means of small grants awarded once a year. Each grant applicant must address one of the three categories: treatment, prevention or enforcement.

This year's applicants, submitted at the last monthly meeting in March, included requests for help with the Crawford County High School After Prom program, Crawford County Youth Service Bureau for drug and alcohol education, Hoosier Hills PACT Life-skills Training program and Purdue's Project LEAD (Legal Education to Arrest Delinquency) — all which focused on prevention. In the treatment category, Hoosier Hills PACT applied for grants to help with its Substance Abuse Training and Certification as well as a Behavioral Monitoring and Reinforcement program. There was only one applicant in the enforcement category — Milltown Police Department — for financial support of the Crawford County Criminal Drug Interdiction program. The grants should be awarded and announced by the LCC's April meeting.

The LCC is made up of people concerned about the drug problem in the county and those who are involved with drug issues. An effort is made to have representatives from several categories, including schools, law enforcement, business, medicine, media, judiciary, youth, labor, religion, youth and family. Regular attendees of the Crawford County LCC include Marengo Elementary School Principal Alan Cox, a representative of the Crawford County Sheriff's Department, Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg, Pastor Deb Reichenbach, Purdue Extension's Jackie Young, Jim Grizzel and Jessica Maddox of the Crawford County Probation Department, Crawford County Emergency Management Agency Director Larry Allen, Milltown Chief Marshal Ray Saylor, Indiana Conservation Officer Terry Allen, who serves as the group's vice chair, Indiana State Police Det. Chuck Pirtle, Fran Wheeler of the Youth Service Bureau and others.

"But we'd love to have even more involved," Hillenburg said. "I'd like to see more business people — and parents — involved with the group. I was in the LCC back in 1993, but I was working out of the county for a while and wasn't involved with the group during that period. But I became a part of it again in 2007. Having a group of this variety helps us take a broad look at the county and the needs. This is a committed group, and I feel like it's an opportunity for the county to work together, to progress and to do things that are important in the fight against drugs."

Jon Kuss, executive director of Hoosier Hills PACT and longtime chair of the LCC, said that the group could do even more if more funds were available.

"We're doing what we can with what we have," he said. "The money we give out in grants increases services and helps in several ways. One thing we focus on is raising awareness, and I believe we do that. But it would be great if we had even more people show up at the meetings and help with more ideas and input. We can do more if we have more people involved. And even though we have a lot of groups represented at the meetings, there are not enough parents involved. I know everyone is busy and there's never enough time, but this is a great program, and we can make a difference. And we have some school and student involvement. It would be great to have even more, to have their input and ideas."

Carrie Allen, the coordinator for the group, agrees with Kuss.

"We have had incredible student involvement for the last two years," Allen said. "There have been one to two students at almost every meeting. Students involved in the past include Gabe Talley, Taylor Cox, Seth Lindauer, Savannah Waterworth and Haleigh Mitchell. Two current students, Savannah and Julianna Lundgen, have consistently attended meetings since July of 2011. They provide insight to the council from the student perspective that we would not normally receive. They are not afraid to speak up and participate in the process.

"In addition, we have an incredible core of people from the community who have attended the council meeting for years. We thank them very much for their concern about the serious substance abuse problems in Crawford County and appreciate them giving up their time to assist us."

Allen said the group is still looking for someone from the medical community to become involved.

"In order to receive federal funding, we need to have 22 members from different facets of the community consistently attending our meetings," she added. "One membership requirement we have had a difficult time recruiting is a representative from the medical community. We try to make our meetings early enough in the mornings to accommodate work schedules.

"If we could get a doctor, nurse, medical assistant, psychiatrist, therapist or anyone else who works in the medical field to attend on a regular basis, all 22 of our requirements for participants will be met, making it possible to receive federal grants. If anyone is interested in joining the council, please come to a meeting or contact us at drugfree@drugfreecrawford.com for more information."

The Crawford County Council for a Drug-Free Community meets at Van's Restaurant in Marengo at 8 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month.

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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