United Way helping fight opioids

Jackson County United Way is getting involved in the fight to help residents overcome drug addiction and substance abuse.

Through special grant funding from AmeriCorps and Indiana United Ways, the agency will be starting a new 3-year program aimed at better understanding the issues drug addicts and their families face and what resources are available or are needed locally to help.

United Against Opioid Abuse is a collaborative initiative being implemented by United Way in 10 counties: Clinton, Grant, Howard, Jackson, Jennings, Madison, Montgomery, Porter, Sullivan and Vigo.

As part of the program, JCUW will be creating and filling a new AmeriCorps position to assist with this work. The job will be a full-time, 40 hours per week, position for the next 10 to 11 months.

Job duties will be to assist the United Way and other community organizations in conducting a “landscape scan,” about how Jackson County is experiencing the opioid problem; developing an “asset map” to help leaders look at community resources systematically and engaging the community as part of the solution.

“We are really excited to dig deeper into the issue with the AmeriCorps member and provide some backbone support to anti-drug-use messaging throughout the county,” said Talmadge Reasoner, United Way board president. “This work will support existing coalitions currently working on prevention and response to opioid abuse.”

Anyone interested in applying for the position should contact Tonja Couch, Jackson County United Way executive director, at 812-522-5450 or email [email protected].

Couch said the county’s drug issue is having a major impact on United Way’s work to improve the community.

“United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community,” she said. “Right now, one of the biggest threats to all three of those in families is substance use disorder — a point driven home by the fact that it’s present in over half of (Department of Child Services) cases in Indiana.”

Last year, drug abuse was one of the biggest concerns highlighted during many community conversations organized by Jackson County United Way and the Jackson County Public Library.

“What we heard was people are concerned about drug use and the lack of support systems in place,” Couch said. “Also, people want less babies born addicted, less students to die from drug use and less parents creating generational drug use. People also said having a drug-free community conversation would be a good thing.”

Jackson County United Way staff and board members have been attending meetings of the Jackson County Drug-Free Council, the Jackson County Drug Awareness Action Team and other groups that are taking action.

“We know that United Way can’t tackle this issue alone,” said Reasoner, who is an assistant principal at Seymour High School.

By working together with local groups and with other counties to address the drug crisis, Jackson County will be putting itself in a position to make a difference, Couch added.

“We know that many people are working on this issue, and we are here to join in the fight for families and provide a better understanding of the issue,” she said.

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Anyone interested in applying for the United Against Opioid Abuse position should contact Tonja Couch, Jackson County United Way executive director, at 812-522-5450 or email [email protected].