County substance abuse coalition will lose state funding in 16 months
By MEGAN COOPER
Mt. Pleasant News
The Henry County Substance Abuse Coalition will be losing its funding as of September 2015.
During Tuesday’s Henry County Board of Supervisors meeting, Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Chris Kempker and director of the Henry County Substance Abuse Coalition Cherry Sandeen, approached the supervisors to inform them what the coalition does and to see what options may be available to keep the coalition alive.
“I use grant funding through the Iowa Department of Public Health to help prevent youth from starting the use of tobacco,” said Kempker. “I hold meetings with schools, youth groups and health classes. I want to raise awareness, especially with e-cigarettes because of the flavors they have available to entice youth to use.
“I don’t want youth thinking that e-cigarettes are fun and decide to use them. E-cigarettes do have nicotine in them and they are an addictive product,” added Kempker.
According to Sandeen, there have been many emergency-room visits in the news because of e-cigarettes.
“Young children are getting a hold of them and using them,” said Sandeen. “We want to help prevent that.”
Kempker added to the discussion that she also helps to provide training to help quit smoking and the grant helps to fund the quit line, which is a toll-free number to call to get free nicotine patches and gum to quit smoking.
“We also want to help promote businesses who want to go to 100 percent smoke-free campuses,” said Kempker. “Right now, Mackay Envelope and City Carton are 100 percent smoke-free. We want others to do this as well. We would help to provide smoke-free education classes for those employees.
“In the future, our intent would be to work towards smoke-free parks. Currently, at a park, there is no smoking in any building that is under cover. The grant would look at making it smoke-free around the playground, where the kids are,” concluded Kempker.
Sandeen then discussed with the board what her job entails and what the Henry County Substance Abuse Coalition has been doing.
“The mission of the Henry County Substance Abuse Coalition is to keep drugs and alcohol out of the hands of youth,” explained Sandeen. “We are working across the entire county and we are working to accomplish what we can. I have a list here of things we have already one around the county, one of them is we established two, permanent drug drop-off sites. One is located at the police station and the other at the sheriff’s department.
“Every spring and fall we hold a drug drop-off day and from those two days we have collected around 300 pounds of medication, which was disposed of properly,” said Sandeen.
Another program the coalition has created is the text-a-tip program. People text 319-931-3667 and let authorities know about underage drinking, drug use and much more.
“The program is really starting to take off,” said Sandeen. “It was slow to start because we were targeting high school students and they aren’t wanting to tell on their friends. But we had a contest where students could design a flyer and had a cash prize, now there is more awareness.
“We also did a marketing campaign on the social host bill, which was just passed by the state of Iowa. Ours social host law in Henry County is anyone under 21, but the state law is anyone under 18. The citation will be for whichever has a stiffer penalty, so we can follow ours,” said Sandeen.
Under Senate File 2310, adults who allow minors under age 18 to drink alcohol on property they own or lease would be guilty of a simple misdemeanor punishable with a $200 fine. Subsequent violations would be subject to $500 fines.
The law means parents who allow their children to host parties in which alcohol is present could be cited. The bill does not apply, however, in situations in which adults allow 18-, 19 -and 20-year-olds access to alcohol.
The coalition also:
Is active with the Interact Club at the Mt. Pleasant Community High School.
Hosted interviews with different people for alcohol awareness month in April, they shared stories on laws, what is happening in school and someone shared their story of recovery (young girl).
Helps school districts with after prom activities in order to provide substance-free activities.
Helps pay for overtime for the Mt. Pleasant Police Department in order to have extra people on duty for homecoming for high school and Iowa Wesleyan College.
“We also help with Healthy Henry County Communities and we helped with their Heartfest and Healthy Halloween Walk, we set up a stand and shared with the community how to properly disposed of medication,” said Sandeen. “Some people didn’t know what they were supposed to do or where to take it.”
The coalition will be, along with Iowa Wesleyan College, hosting an all-day conference for high school and college level athletes.
“It will be a holistic approach,” explained Sandeen. “Rather than sitting the students down and telling them not to do drugs, it will discuss the eight dimensions of wellness and help them to see there are multiple ways to reach goals. I’m really excited about this and I learned last Friday that Dan Gable will be our keynote speaker.”
Finally, Sandeen shared with the board the upcoming Neon Stampede 5K fun run/walk that will be taking place during the Henry County Fair. For more information about the run/walk, contact 319-385-8126.