Prevention and Response Columbia County (PARCC) held a presentation at the Poynette-Dekorra Fire Department Wednesday, May 22 where they spoke about drug use and trends being seen around the county.
The presentation is part of a three-part series in Poynette that is being done in conjunction with the Poynette School District and Inspire Wellness Poynette. They held their first presentation last month, with another scheduled in June.
This month, PARCC partnered with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department and the Columbia County Department of Health and Human Services to share information on how certain drugs affect the brain, substance abuse trends in the county and treatments available to the public.
Lindsay Patterson, Lodi Community Action Team project coordinator, said PARCC has been to a number of different communities to spread awareness on various issues, and they will often seek other officials to participate in the presentations.
“It’s not always staff driven. Sometimes the sheriff’s department, they will do presentations for us,” Patterson said. “Our group is made up of a lot of different officials in the community so it really depends on what type of presentation is being requested.”
This presentation featured Clint Starks, administrator for the Columbia County Health and Human Services Behavioral Health and Long Term Support division. He spoke from a neurological perspective on drug use and how they can affect the brain.
“A lot of folks would say…’Why don’t you just stop? You got three beautiful children at home.’ That was kind of an old school way of thinking that addiction was a choice,” Starks said. “In the last 10-15 years, studies have come out saying that it’s a disease of sorts.”
He also talked about recovery options in the county, including the Medication Assisted Recovery and Coordination (MARC) program. This is a program developed to treat heroin and opioid prescription drug addiction. They also facilitate referrals to medication-assisted treatment and provide ongoing case management services.
Starks said there are currently 45 people active in MARC. Along with this, Columbia County offers adult treatment courts and OWI courts.
From a police perspective, detective Sgt. David Clark with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department talked about what he and the department is seeing in the county with a focus on marijuana and heroin.
“Heroin and opiates are our number one priority because that’s what’s killing our citizens,” Clark said. “We’re having a lot of overdoses.”
Last year, there were 103 drug overdose EMS calls in Columbia County and 21 total drug overdose-related deaths. Clark said these numbers are starting to trend upward after being on the decline for several years.
Clark spoke about new trends he’s seeing when it comes to marijuana, such as the use of butane hash oil — concentrated THC oil that is more potent than a regular marijuana plant — has become popular among youth.
“This is what our kids our using,” he said. “This is the hot thing right now. This is what the high school kids, adults, this is the stuff they’re smoking.”
Clark said other variances such as edibles are also popular. He said it has become a problem where people are eating certain foods and not realizing it is a THC product.
Lastly, Tom Drury, PARCC coalition chair, spoke about his perspective on substance abuse. He spoke as a member of the Police and Fire commission in Portage for almost 33 years, a hospital chaplain and as a father with a son who has struggled with addiction.
“When we first became aware of our son’s struggle with drugs seven years ago, we knew nothing about opioid addiction,” Drury said.
Drury spoke highly of the treatment programs available in Columbia County and vouches for their ability to work and save lives.
As PARCC prepares for their next presentation, they will be speaking more about prevention and treatment in the county in June. They plan to highlight strategies for preventing youth substance use and an overview of available treatment options for county residents. The meeting is scheduled for 6-7 p.m. June 26 at the Arlington Community Center.