Thankful for being able to work together

By Kathy Miles

Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, Inc.

It’s been happening all over our community for weeks. People coming back together in face-to-face meetings after months of seeing each other on a screen, or not meeting at all. Whether it be churches, service clubs, local government committees, or educational classes, the joy of being back together is evident everywhere.

Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP) just held our first in person meeting in over a year. We continued to meet virtually throughout the pandemic with consistent dedication by so many of our members. Perhaps it was because addressing addiction and substance misuse is just too pressing a problem to let another crisis take us down. Certainly the work continued because we saw some of our progress prior to the epidemic worsen during the past year. We just couldn’t pause completely when so many needs were emerging. We would have failed our friends and neighbors had we stopped the work.

So we gathered early on a late June morning at the recently renovated Boyle County Extension Office to share, review, and reenergize for the future. Members told stories, and we discussed data of importance to our work. We have learned over the years both have to be done – real life narratives that grab your heart, and factual data that informs and guides the programs planned and implemented.

We heard our jailer discuss with excitement new programs at the Detention Center, including a partnership program with University of Kentucky Healing Communities Study giving Narcan to families and inmates as they leave the jail, to save their lives if they use an opioid after they return home. We listened to treatment program representatives from organizations like Isaiah House, Shepherds House, New Vista, and Spero Health, describe their continuing numbers of people seeking help and entering recovery. We planned how we can be a positive part of young people’s lives as a new school year begins in August. And, we continued to be enriched by the work of Northpoint Training Center and Reentry Councils in assisting people to leave the criminal justice system with the tools and resources they need to be productive citizens.

Like every community, we have our share of problems. Some of those problems are more straightforward and solved in a designated amount of time. On the other hand, some of them are like substance use and addiction – they are complex, exacerbated by a variety of related factors, and most effectively addressed on a continuing basis. The opioid addiction crisis with its unprecedented number of deaths by overdose has clearly taught us at least three things: We can’t just incarcerate our way out of America’s addictions; we can’t ignore warning signs and data and just hope problems will magically go away; and we can’t expect a national solution to completely replace local community work.

Community citizens coming together to find solutions to problems – that’s democracy at its best. Perhaps the pandemic has taught us that service to others along beside people like us and different from us, and sharing our joys, sorrows, and resources, is not to be taken for granted. We are stronger together than apart.

America will soon celebrate the birthday of our democracy on July 4. Let’s don’t forget to give thanks for opportunities to work together in building and strengthening community life. The framers of our Constitution gave us an amazing gift – this is an especially good year to celebrate that gift.