Steve Sharer: Recovery in Jackson County – A community call to action

By Steve Sharer

Guest columnist

In May 2022, I took on a one-year project to help assess recovery efforts in Jackson County, my home most of my life.

I saw this as an opportunity to apply the wisdom I accumulated in a long and varied career and a way to give back to a community that has given much to me. I have some life experience regarding substance abuse and the effects it has on family and loved ones, am educated as an engineer, have a master’s in social work, am still a project manager, have a strong Christian faith and as stated, thought I had a bit of wisdom to share.

The truth is I walked into a world that I did not know existed right under my nose.

Opioid crisis, pill mills, fentanyl-laced everything, MAT, MOUD, IOP, detox, groups, recover out loud, recover in silence (not a program but common practice), vaping, vaping education, purer meth availability, Narcan, Narcan vending machines, intergenerational substance use, lack of mental health resources, oh and how about the ever-present tobacco and alcohol use issues.

My head is spinning. I am trying to make sense out of all of this, but wait, there is more. I stumbled upon a Drug Enforcement Administration program titled One Pill Can Kill. I don’t know about you, but I have taken over-the-counter and prescribed medication in pill form and never thought that one pill could kill, but I am wrong.

The scary part is that this one pill that can kill is being made by the millions, is a counterfeit being made to look like very commonly prescribed medication that is commonly sold on the street. The caveat is this pill contains enough fentanyl that one pill can kill an adult with no warning. Equally or more troubling, if you have five grandsons like I do, is that kids are buying and taking them, buying online and taking them in their bedroom while a parent is in the room next door.

Recovery in Jackson County is a community issue that needs community support and commitment to manage a critical issue that none of us fully grasp.

I am calling for every member of our community to become involved in the Recovery in Jackson County effort. A first step is to read the assessment report and begin to digest the magnitude and complexity of the issues.

Increase your awareness by reading many of the reference documents cited in the report. Share what you learn with family and friends and don’t be afraid to have a dialog about recovery. Ask questions, share concerns, become involved and contribute in a positive way. There are numerous opportunities to volunteer to help.

Education and awareness are powerful tools in our community’s efforts to address recovery. The report is for the whole community, acknowledging no one in the community is an expert in all areas of substance use disorder, prevention, treatment or recovery modalities. The report includes definitions of terms, context and history to encourage personal education and awareness.

The assessment process and resulting report have stirred the recovery pot in a positive way with activity and action in many areas of need. The report makes 10 recommendations, and I want to address a few that are community-focused.

Utilize faith-based organizations more in recovery efforts. With nearly 100 churches in our county, faith-based organizations already play a critical role in recovery, but much more could be done.

Work as a community to learn to play better together, trust one another, be honest and work for the common good of those we are trying to protect and make whole in this effort we call recovery.

Develop a recovery awareness program for our community and implement it.

Develop a Comprehensive Community Prevention program. Follow the Guide to SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework as closely as possible to develop a communitywide comprehensive prevention plan for our community.

Develop a communitywide resource list of available services fully vetted, accurate and up to date. Work toward a No Wrong Door goal. No, we do not already have one.

Please access and read the assessment report that can be found at

Steve Sharer was hired in May 2022 as program coordinator for the Jackson County Recovery Program. Send comments to [email protected].