JACKSON COUNTY - Statistics show that drug use has been on the increase in our youth over the past 20 years.
All of the following are substances that have been on the increase: tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, steroids and even synthetics.

After seeing this trend happening, a group of concerned Jackson County citizens headed by then Mayor Ollie Harvey, began meeting behind closed doors to discuss the fact that drugs in Jackson County were becoming a very real issue locally.

In late 2008, there had been an increase of deaths among youth ranging from16-24 years old. The group of concerned citizens decided that something needed to be done, and the Jackson County Anti Drug Coalition was formed. The coalition was able to at first sponsor one-time events through donations, but that wasn’t enough. In order to reach the community with an on going effort, proper funding was needed.

Amy Haskins, now coordinator of the coalition, brought this up to the group. The coalition agreed and applied for federal funding February ,2009. The coalition was approved for funding in August, 2009. The federal grant gave the coalition $125,000 yearly for the next five years. Once approved, the coalition were able to hit the cause with full force, tackling first prescription drugs in Jackson County.

The first year was mainly to raise awareness to the surrounding community. However, since then, they have been able to make quite and impact on Jackson County through drug take backs, lock them up campaigns, PATCH, after school programs and even a preschool program.

The coalition also was able to raise $12,000 to purchase their very own incinerator to properly dispose of drugs. They’ve also placed drop boxes for folks to safely dispose of their prescription pills. One is located at the Ripley Police Department and the other is located at the Ravenswood Police Department.  The coalition also has two youth coalitions, one in Ripley and the other in Ravenswood. The youth coalition’s logo is “Above the Influence.” They have held a “sticker shock” program, which is where they go to local business’s that sell alcohol and place a green sticker with a warning regarding buying alcohol for teens. They have worked to pass a smoke-free policy in the Ripley Park, and Ravenswood Park is considering doing the same.

The coalition in 2010 worked closely with Senator Facemeyer to pass an all-encompassing bill regarding synthetics in West Virginia. The bill states that any imitation or derivative is illegal. Therefore, even if a drug user was to change the genetic make-up of the synthetic, it would still be illegal in our state.

Next on the coalition agenda is tackling alcohol taxation. Not only could such taxation fund organizations like the coaltion, but also it could cover some of the national debt.

Getting a bill passed to tax alcohol will require a community effort. The coalition is very passionate about this topic as well as marijuana use among the youth of Jackson County.

A recent study was taken regarding marijuana use as a recreational drug--2-3 times a week. The user’s IQ after a 1-2 years of usage can drop eight points. An average IQ is 100 and after the 8-point drop that leaves the user at a 92, which is considered challenged.

Drugs can leave a lasting effect not only on the user but the user’s family.

Dodie Rhodes a preschool educator and member of the coalition, has her son, Chris Rhodes, tragically passed away due to a drug overdose on December 17,2008. The lasting effects a loss like that can provide for a family member can be difficult. Since his passing, Rhodes joined the coalition as well as started a Chris Rhodes Memorial Foundation. The Rhodes family is not the only family in Jackson County that has been affected by drugs.

Dodie is one who will continue to raise awareness in hopes that no one should have to experience a loss.

The Coalition holds meetings the first Monday of every month at City Hall if anyone would like to attend feel free. It’s completely open to the public The Jackson Coalition is not made up of mere people who have experienced loss but they are also made up of people who want to fight for a better tomorrow today.