Liverpool welcomes help in fight against drugs

With plans in the works to re-implement the DARE program into the local school district, city administrators met last week with two groups interested in helping with that goal.

Mayor Ryan Stovall, Service-Safety Director Brian Allen and police Chief John Lane exchanged ideas and information with East Liverpool’s Got Talent President Pennie Zehnder and Director Amy Hissom-Daugherty and Cindy Anderson of Sean’s Bridge to Hope.

They agreed their common goal is to bring back the DARE program, although not necessarily the traditional type program aimed at middle school students but a program geared toward every grade clear through graduation.

“We’re just using the term ‘DARE’ so everyone will know what we’re talking about, but it might not exactly be DARE,” Lane said.

Anderson, who lost her son to a drug overdose, related that she recently received a note from the teacher of her 5-year-old grandson she is now raising, saying he has a solid knowledge of drug awareness, which she said he has gained just by hearing her speak to others on the phone about it.

“Nobody can tell me you can’t educate a kindergartener about drugs,” Anderson said.

The goal is to raise $135,000 annually for the program, which would pay the cost of an officer to be in the schools 40 hours per week, as well as a cruiser and other expenses, Allen said.

“(The officer) wouldn’t be on the street at all. He would be in the school, arranging speakers, working hand-in-hand with (school personnel),” Allen said.

Zehnder said their groups are “100 percent behind you,” saying, “Kids need to know this is not normal behavior, that it’s not normal to do drugs.”

Anderson asked if the program will include parental education and awareness, and Lane said it can if that is what is wanted.

She also asked if evening programs could be held so parents can attend, with Stovall saying, “The officer could do that, but he can’t make them come.”

Allen told the group leaders the best way they can help is to “push the income tax,” referring to a temporary .5 percent income tax increase the city is seeking in November, which will be in effect for five years if approved.

He said that while private businesses, the school district and state’s attorney general are all willing to help fund the program, “the biggest factor will be the income tax,” since it will not only allow for a DARE officer to be in place in the schools by February of 2017 but will allow for hiring two additional police officers on the street.

Zehnder asked if the groups could also help raise funds, and Allen said legislation is being prepared to seek permission from the state to create a city fund specifically into which DARE proceeds will be placed.

Discussion centered around the need for treatment facilities for drug addicts, and Anderson said, “You only have an hour or hour-and-a-half (to get an addict looking for help into a treatment program) or they lose their interest. They get dope sickness, the need to use.”

Allen said Commissioner Tim Weigle is meeting with East Liverpool City Hospital officials to discuss the possibility of a rehab center there.

Stovall said the county stands to lose $2 million in funding due to Medicare changes which could result in less funding available to communities to help pay for officers to serve on the drug task force.

Allen and Stovall welcomed Zehnder’s suggestion that the two groups could launch a petition or letter-writing campaign, urging legislators to reconsider the planned changes in Medicare.

“There’s no easy solution,” Allen admitted, saying the solution is three-pronged, including education, interdiction with law enforcement and rehabilitation, saying he fears the governor may move toward rehabilitation and forget the other two components of battling drug addiction.

Another way the community can help, Allen said, is, “If you see something, say something. We really need to push that.”

The two groups also agreed to participate in community information meetings Allen is planning to discuss the income tax proposal.

It was agreed subsequent meetings will be held monthly between the two groups and administration.

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