Substance abuse

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Cahaba Cares to host public forum

By Victor Inge

The Selma Times-Journal

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A public forum has been scheduled for later this month to address the stigma associated with substance abuse, and outline how and where to get help for residents of Dallas, Perry and Wilcox counties.

September is designated to bring attention to substance use disorders, and Cahaba Cares – a branch of the Cahaba Center – plans to host a forum that will help remove negative connotations of persons seeking help. The forum is set for Sept. 18 at 4 p.m at the Selma-Dallas Public Library. It is part of the annual observance of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

Cahaba Cares has more than 500 clients in the three-county area, who have come forward for help with addictions to tobacco, alcohol and a range of drugs.

Tracy Craig and Ed Johnston are Cahaba Cares prevention specialists. They spend their time with young people, visiting schools with their curriculum “Too Good For Drugs,” hoping to stop bad habits before they get started. It deals with how to select friends, which Johnston said was a major factor in making the choice not to drink alcohol and do drugs.

The need for prevention is there, Johnston says, as they also counsel adolescents as young as 12 and 13 who have addictions.

“Young people have the most difficult times because their addictions affect the whole family,” Johnston said. “If you’re a young person and addicted to alcohol or drugs, you’re not going to be able to concentrate in school. You don’t have a job, so you’re going to have to do something to get it. This is where other problems are created.”

This year’s theme is “Join the voices of recovery: Build a stronger, healthier community.” In its 17th year, this year’s national observance activities include a Recovery Walk in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16, and a rally at the Alabama State Capitol, which Johnston said is a first.

A panel that includes law enforcement officers, court officials, mental health counselors, school officials and substance abuse authorities will discuss the perils of alcohol and drug abuse, Johnston said. The public is invited to attend, particularly persons in need of help, or who may have family members with dependency issues. Discussion on how to address stigma and discrimination when approaching treatment and recovery will be the main focus of the public forum, organizers said.

According to a statement released by Cahaba Cares, there are approximately 27,000 people in Alabama currently seeking help with riding themselves of chemical dependencies. In Dallas, Perry and Wilcox counties the number is more than 500.

“This is a revolving door,” Johnston said. “We shouldn’t stigmatize people who are seeking help. That’s why our entrances are at the rear of the buildings. God gave us – humans – the ability to reason. That can curtail a lot of the problems with addiction.”

The public is invited to take part in the forum. For more information, or to get help breaking an addiction call 874-2600. All calls are confidential.