Town hall on drug abuse set for May 2 at The Healing Place

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By Calen McKinney

It’s a problem, but not one found only in Taylor County.

Drug abuse can be found everywhere, local law enforcement and drug officials say, and its impact can be felt everywhere it takes root.

“There’s always been a problem,” Taylor County Sheriff Allen Newton said. “Every county has it. It’s society. It’s sometimes accepted in certain cultures today.”

The war on drugs has been ongoing for decades, Newton said, and education does help some people kick their habits. But for others, that just doesn’t work.

In Taylor County, there are many officials working to eliminate drug abuse.

Newton and his deputies investigate reports of drug activity in Taylor County every week.

Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette says he and his officers do the same.

“I don’t know if it’s any worse than anywhere else,” Hazlette said.

Police officers and deputies often encounter people who abuse marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines. Hazlette and Newton say they used to see drug users abusing prescription pills. While some still do, state and federal laws have cracked down on the tracking of narcotic prescriptions.

That, Hazlette and Newton say, pushed people to search for alternative drugs. And a drug that was once abused decades ago has again begun to take hold in Taylor County once again.

“Heroin is back,” Newton said. “It’s a dangerous drug. It’s a problem. It’s probably the easiest thing to get right now.

“Somebody, somewhere, has made it easy to get again.”

Campbellsville/Taylor County Anti-Drug Coalition works to raise public awareness about drug abuse and prevention. Karen Hayes and Rhonda Parker serve as co-chairs.

The coalition began in the 1990s after drug and alcohol abuse became prevalent in Taylor County and officials believed something needed to be done about it.

Coalition members, who total about 25, work together to bring information to the community and parents.

“It is a community problem and it has to be a community solution,” Hayes said.

While many believe drug abuse is a problem only adults struggle with, Parker and Hayes say recent surveys show drug abuse is up in teens. To combat that, they said, the coalition works closely with local school systems to educate students about the impact of drug abuse.

Hazlette and Newton say they believe drugs make their way to Campbellsville through cartels in larger cities, including Lexington and Louisville, and get to those cities from larger states like Michigan and Illinois. Some drugs come from Mexico, they say. Sheriff’s deputies once found a house in Taylor County that was used as part of a Mexican drug cartel operation.

But pinpointing exactly where drugs come from is difficult, Hazlette said.

“There’s not a single source, I don’t believe,” he said.

Drug abuse leads to problems much broader than simply doing damage to a person’s body, Newton said, from financial issues to domestic violence and child neglect.

Hazlette said his officers often find drug use is the underlying reason people commit crimes. Drugs impact a person’s ability to reason, he said, along with the ability to cope and function at a normal rate. He said drugs make some melancholy and others erupt in rage.

Drugs can also cause people to neglect their basic needs to live. And drugs users can’t take care of themselves, let alone other people.

Newton says drug users can kick their habits, but it’s very hard and takes hard work and dedication.

In the past 10 to 15 years, Hazlette said, as the economy has taken a downturn, some people have looked for quick ways to make money.

“Unfortunately, drugs supply that,” he said. “It’s a tax-free, lucrative job with a pretty good return. I believe as a society, we’ve kind of lost our moral compass.”

Hazlette said he remembers a time when society battled against the presence of drugs. Today, he said, that’s not always the case.

Discovering why people use drugs when they know how much damage they cause is something

Hazlette says is hard to understand.

For those wanting help with their addictions, there are many options available in Taylor County.

There are many Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous and other support groups, along with counselors, Taylor County Drug Court and The Healing Place rehab center to offer guidance to kick the drug habit.

The Healing Place is a drug recovery center for men. It is a long-term residential program.

There are 30 people enrolled in Drug Court, according to program supervisor Jennifer Caulk, which operates in Taylor, Marion, Washington and Green counties.

To participate in the Drug Court program, Caulk said, people must first be charged with committing a crime, be referred to the program, evaluated and accepted.

People can be denied entrance to the program for a variety of reasons, from not having transportation to participate to not admitting they are a drug user.

Admitting they have a problem is the first step to recovery, she said.

To report drug activity, call the anonymous community safe-line at 469-PRIDE.