ROCK HALL — The hope that there are ways out from addiction’s grasp was present as people from various communities packed the Rock Hall firehouse June 1, sharing their experiences to better enhance anti-drug awareness.
Sponsored by the Rock Hall Against Drugs campaign, the meeting featured addiction specialist and interventionist Joseph “Joe Brat” McBratney as a guest speaker.
Kent County State’s Attorney Harris Murphy and Sheriff John F. Price also said a few words. Andrew Pons, director of the A.F. Whitsitt Center, and registered nurse Melissa Thomas spoke about the perils of addiction.
“It was a full night,” Rock Hall Mayor Brian Jones said in a June 2 telephone interview. “There must have been about 175 people, all wanting to learn what they can about this drug crisis.”
He said candles were lit in memory of all those who had been lost to overdoses, heroin or otherwise.
“I thought the meeting was well attended, and is a positive indication of the motivation within the community to address the serious — too often deadly — issues presented by heroin, specifically, and substance abuse, generally,” Murphy wrote in a June 2 email.
Jones said Brat told the audience about his own personal experience with substance addiction, how he overcame it and the work that he does now.
“It was really emotional because he was able to connect with the audience, being a former addict himself,” Jones said.
He said a highlight of the night happened when Brat asked the audience if there was anyone who wanted to receive help that moment. A young man immediately put his hand up.
“He said he couldn’t do it anymore,” Jones said. “His parents had no idea about his problem.”
Jones said Brat plans on working with the family, to help the young man get on the right path.
Murphy said he spoke about what the state’s attorney’s office does to combat drug use and the Post Adjudication Supervision and Treatment Program, which is modeled on traditional drug court programs.
A collaboration between the state’s attorney’s office, Circuit Court Judge Paul Bowman, District Court Judge John Nunn and the Kent County Health Department, the PAST program serves as an alternate to standard incarceration and option for non-violent offenders with substance abuse issues.
“PAST Program participants receive more intensive treatment and increased supervision,” Murphy wrote.
Price said the community meeting was a success and that people were taking advantage of available resources. He spoke on how the heroin epidemic is everywhere in the country, and how the sheriff’s office is working to combat it by using Narcan kits.
“They reverse opiate overdoses if we get there in time,” Price said. “We have success stories, but other times it’s too late.”
He said he would like to see more meetings that involve law enforcement partnering with treatment centers.
“Not that we’re going to turn a blind eye to those who use,” Price said. “But our primary target is to get ride of the dealers. As far as they go? I’m fine with locking them up and throwing away the key.”
Jones said Brat spent June 3 at the Rock Hall municipal building, providing resources and scholarships to treatment center to anyone who came to see him.
“I’ll tell you, it was something,” Jones said, of the community meeting. “People who are addicted to drugs yet reaching out and asking for help is something I’ve never seen before.”