Johnstown to host town-hall meeting on substance abuse
Several county and Johnstown organizations plan to host a town-hall-style meeting to tell residents and community members about Licking County's drug problem.
Organizers cite statistics to show that substance abuse in Licking County is a little higher than the national average.
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, in Johnstown Village Council chambers and will feature a panel discussion involving law-enforcement officials, medical professionals, students and parents.
"It's open to anyone in Licking County who would like to attend. Johnstown is the host," said Bobby Persinger, director of prevention for Pathways of Central Ohio, a social-services agency that provides resources to individuals and families in need. "We hope that people walk away from this with energy and enthusiasm to be part of the solution."
Johnstown-Monroe Local Schools Superintendent Damien Bawn will serve as moderator.
"Substance abuse is a very serious problem across our entire nation," Bawn said. "Unfortunately, this insidious evil reaches our children at a vulnerable stage in their development and makes it even more important that we do everything possible to intervene and provide support."
Bawn said the May 22 meeting would bring Johnstown schools and village representatives together with a number of local agencies in an effort to provide information to parents and other concerned members about the warning signs and where they could go for help.
"Substance abuse is an entire community issue," Persinger said.
He said the panel would include Licking County deputy coroner Jeff Lee, as well as Valerie Connolly of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Service. She will offer medical perspectives.
Johnstown police officer Chris Cooperrider will represent law enforcement; Johnstown-Monroe High School student Garret Holter will represent the student point of view; and Johnstown-Monroe district parent Monica West will offer a parent's perspective.
Pathways of Central Ohio, Our Futures in Licking County, the village of Johnstown, the Johnstown Police Department, Johnstown-Monroe Local Schools and Mental Health & Recovery for Licking & Knox counties all sponsor the event.
Persinger said this would be the second Licking County substance-abuse town-hall meeting in three months. Granville sponsored a similar meeting April 11, and roughly 40 people attended.
"No more are scheduled yet, but the goal would be to continue the discussion," said Persinger.
Cooperrider, who works directly with Johnstown schools, said he doesn't believe Johnstown schools have more of a drug issue than other local districts.
"We're probably less than other schools in Licking County," he said. "If there's just one person doing it, there's a problem."
He said all students and parents should attend. Even elementary school students could help spot substance abuse in their community if they know the warning signs, he said.
"The more eyes, the more information we have, the better we can do our job," he said.