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Oxford’s Community Outreach & Recovery Event (CORE) event acknowledges drug issue

The Southern Recovery Advocacy (SRA) recently brought 20 community and addiction recovery industry representatives in Oxford together for its initial Community Outreach & Recovery Event (CORE) roundtable.

SRA board members were pleased to bring elected officials, attorneys, doctors and medical professionals to the table to address the gap in services for individuals and families struggling with what has become a nationwide substance use disorder epidemic. Turnout was better than expected.

Chris Teague, SRA board member and Administrative Pastor of Grace Bible Church of Oxford, organized the roundtable after recent deaths and overdoses.

“I wanted to bring this issue out of the shadows and work toward a solution. During a meeting with Mayor-Elect Robyn Tannehill, she suggested getting the people dealing with this in a room and make sure we are all pulling the rope in the same direction, and so we did,” said Teague.

Tannehill said she is troubled by the number of recent 911 calls for overdose emergencies, noting there were 14 in a recent two-week period in the Oxford area.

Larken Ware, an Oxford emergency room physician, said the numbers could be much higher for actual overdoses when you factor in the victims brought to the emergency room by family members.

Officials from the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department, the University Police Department and the Oxford Police Department attended the meeting, saying that the community needs more resources so that local police aren’t the only option.

Paul Carpenter of Celebrate Recovery asked law enforcement representatives, “What can we do to help you do your job to help those suffering from substance abuse?“

Their response — what many communities are struggling with — the need for treatment beds, sober living environments post treatment and tweaking of drug related laws to allow more meaningful intervention upon interaction with law enforcement.

The fact that law enforcement officers do not carry Narcan, a life-saving overdose reversal drug, was another topic of discussion. The price of Narcan is around $45 per dose, and depending on the severity of the overdose, up to eight doses could be needed for one overdose. That is funding that financially strapped public agencies are not equipped with. Representatives indicated that grant funding was being sought to help reduce the cost to their agencies.

Discussion included the need for parents to allow children to suffer nonlife-threatening consequences when they are faced with an interaction with law enforcement on a drug-related charge. That interaction, say members of law enforcement, could be the interaction and consequence that saves that child’s life.

“Hiring an attorney to reduce the inconveniences of probation or drug court is counterproductive because there are minimum consequences, therefore the behavior continues,” said SRA Executive Director Johnnie Easton. Easton lost her daughter to a heroin overdose in November.

She said no significant progress on these issues will be made until the need for recovery is recognized, the societal stigma is removed, and post-treatment aftercare infrastructure is in place — and funded.

“Returning someone to the same environment that led them to addiction is going to produce the same addictive result,” she said. “Nothing is going to change if nothing changes.”

SRA’s mission is to foster positive change for those struggling with addiction by serving as the clearinghouse for treatment and recovery services in Mississippi.

Joshua Horton, founder and board member of SRA and a law student at Ole Miss, is enjoying long-term recovery and helping others.

“This is my passion, purpose, and why I chose to go into Law,” he said. “I have buried my best friend, family members, and have spent time behind bars. I know the inefficiencies from the inside out.

“And now from the outside in, as I have studied this academically and been recognized nationally for the innovative solutions we are creating. SRA serves as a conduit to provide connections to all the entities that cannot get a grip on this epidemic. Re-entry and Recovery starts at the first contact with law enforcement or medical staff. “

SRA’s action plan includes statewide campaigns to address addiction and recovery needs, beginning in Oxford. Fundraisers and town halls are being planned in key areas to fill the gaps left by lack of state or federal resources. For more information, please visit www.southernrecoveryadvocacy.com.