Impact of local substance abuse highlights community conversation

Communication between kids and parents and throughout the communities in Jasper County are opening dialogue on the serious issue of substance abuse was the overarching message Tuesday at the Jasper County Substance Abuse Coalition Community Conversation.

Held at the Newton High School Auditorium, more than 100 people listened to recovering addicts share their testimonials, what is being done and is available in the county for those dealing with substance abuse, whether personally or in support. They also heard from featured speaker Al Fear on his work battling heroin and opioid abuse throughout the state. Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess started the evening welcoming the crowd and talking about the coalition and its work in the past year.

“You’re here for your community, you care about Newton and Jasper County as a whole and you care about the people here,” Burdess said. 

After dealing with substance abuse issues during his career in law enforcement, Burdess said he, along with many in the community, came to the realization that something different needed to be done. He wanted to get to the root of the problem instead of only treating the symptoms.

“If we go to the root of why these things are happening, the community is going to be healthier and safer for everybody,” Burdess said.

Enter the idea for the substance abuse coalition. In the months following the creation of the coalition, a group of dedicated members made up of service providers, law enforcement, educators and other concerned community members came together to find a better way to communicate to the public and begin the process of making a fundamental change when it comes to substance abuse.

One of the first ideas the coalition formulated was a forum to discuss the issues plaguing the county. After working with providers, former users and adding Fear to the lineup, the coalition presented.

Some of the most powerful words during the conversation came from the three recovering addicts and the…

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