WARSAW — Community leaders and experts in the treatment of substance abuse converged on Warsaw Community High School’s Performing Arts Center Monday night, Aug. 27, for the fourth community call to action gathering.
Prior to the event, Matthew Graham, director of Bowen Center’s Warsaw outpatient office, discussed what he thought was the biggest barrier to treatment. Graham said fighting the stigma that goes with substance abuse creates a challenge for treatment officials who say that many who may need services avoid them because of what they think others will say about them. Nearby, Kosciusko County Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed agreed and said that having conversations and discussions such as the one held Monday night goes a long way to making progress.
“The more we talk about it, the better it is,” Reed said.
The event was sponsored by A Bridge to Hope, Chautauqua Wawasee, Kosciusko County Council Member Kimberly Cates and The Bowen Center.
The focus of this fourth seminar was the impact of drug and alcohol abuse on education.
Opening remarks were made by organizer Kevin Haines, executive director of A Bridge of Hope. Denny Wilson, senior pastor of Warsaw Community Church served as emcee.
The panel featured a mixture of community leaders, educators and treatment specialists.
Tracy Furnivall, 16-year director of the Baker Youth Club, said the issues facing students today has been changing since he began his stint with the club.
“It’s crazy that we’re having these discussions,” Furnivall said. “When I started, this wasn’t what we were talking about.”
Furnivall said 80 percent of his club members are of grade school age and that age group is not immune to the scourge of drug abuse. “Today, you’re dealing with that stuff at a young age,” he said. Furnivall said sometimes it’s not the children using drugs themselves that create the situation.
“To see those kids walk through the door and you know what the issues are,” Furnivall said. “The emotional and physical stress these kids are going through is crazy. We’re trying to break that vicious cycle of parent abuse and grandparent abuse.”
Furnivall’s concerns about children dealing with using parents were not isolated.
Jennifer King and Jessica Wienhorst, skills coaches for The Bowen Center, related stories of drug and alcohol abuse seen in their jobs. King said she experienced multiple occasions of children with substance abuse issues who had been introduced to drugs by their own parents.
“The drug culture is pervasive in our community,” King said. “I just think we need to educate ourselves to what is really going on.”
Panelists also in attendance were D.A.R.E. officer Roy Navarro; Kosciusko Cares Director Marsha Carey; Daisy Hollon, David Bailey, Mandy Bailey, Tracey Akers, Jefferson Elementary School Principal Kyle Carter and Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert of Warsaw Community Schools; and Michael Casey and Kim Nguyen from the Wawasee School Corporation.
Cates said she was pleased with the outcome of the event. She said the quality of the 15 panelists made the event highly effective.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I think it’s going well and the panelist really added to the value of the event.”