By CECIL PERGRAM
Kentucky Congressman of the Sixth Congressional District, Andy Barr, recently visited with members of the community on March 29 to discuss addiction and recovery services to help combat the opioid epidemic.
The event also served as an unofficial opening of the Special People Advocating Recovery Kentucky center office located across from the Powell County Courthouse that was donated by the Powell County Fiscal Court program that some in the community attributes was being a factor to a recent drop in the overdose mortality rate in the county by 50 percent.
For the past three years Jenell Brewer has been an advocate for Special People Advocating Recovery Kentucky also known as SPARK which is a faith based program meeting the needs of anyone with a number of afflictions from substance abuse to grief over the loss of a loved one or family member.
Recently Brewer has opened up an advocacy office for SPARK across from the Powell County Courthouse in Stanton.
In the past two years SPARK has used Casey’s Law more than 90 times to send drug abusers the help needed with addiction recovery.
Powell County resident Stacy Coffey who volunteers his time to assist SPARK advocacy center, told Barr that from 2011-to-2015 Powell County had over 35 deaths due to a drug overdose.
Since the SPARK advocates have been working in the community over the past two years the number of overdose deaths have dropped to four in 2016 and four in 2017.
“To me that’s a drastic impact. Now can I say that SPARK had a direct impact? I would say, yeah, but can we say that was all of the impact? No, but I would say that it was a large enough impact that it warrants potentially being the model for other communities and warrants the need of being funded,” Coffey said.
Barr told those present that he was interested in finding ways of taking resources already dedicated to fighting the opioid crisis and bringing it to Powell County. Barr also told those present at the forum he was interested in hearing from them about what politicians in Washington were missing out on by not being on the front-lines battling addiction.
“The war is fought one person at a time and we can’t lose sight of the fact we are fighting one person at a time and they are no one size that fits all answers,” Powell County District Judge Kenneth Proffit said. “I truly believe if involuntary treatment is going to work for persons with substance abuse there has to be an advocate in each county and that’s not going to happen on a volunteer basis. It’s a one-off, what we have here in Powell County, and; we now have one in Wolfe County.”
Proffitt told Barr while Powell County has done almost 90 Casey Law’s cases in the past two yearas over that same period time there had only been 15 in Breathitt and Wolfe Counties.
“What I was thinking was maybe we need to do is packages this as some sort of study for the Sixth District where we could get funding on a trial basis for each county, the money could be administered through the county judges office or the county attorney,” Profitt said. “If this has any chance of success we need to study what are the best practices for involuntary treatment because if it doesn’t work we need to know that. Right now I look at is a tool that I can use to use help move people from the place where they are a drain on societies resources to the place where they are contributing to societies resources. I think of this as a puzzle but a critical piece is the advocate I would ask that you help Spark with grant writers, money or whatever it takes to make that happen.”
Those present told Barr that they need a central advocate who can coordinate helping people from the cradle to the grave of the process by using their networking skills to get others the help they need.
“What I’m telling you is any money that you can send here, we will take advantage of and we will make you proud of what we do with it,” Powell County Attorney Robert King said.