EDITORIAL/Neshoba’s drug epidemic
There is a disturbing upward trend in illegal drug use in our community in general and specifically in the use of methamphetamines.
We are seeing an enormous increase in people using these drugs. Also, the way these drugs are being administered is troubling, say those on the front lines.
More than ever, people are shooting up meth and heroin. A local recovery organization estimates that since 2019 about 90% of the people who reached out to them for help say meth is either their only drug of choice or at least one of them. That’s a huge increase from 2017 when the ministry began.
“I don’t want this to sound like meth is the only drug people currently use, because it is not,” said Barry Walker, director of the organization, The River. “Opiates, benzodiazepines, and alcohol are still popular among the drug addicts and users in our area.”
Fentanyl has also made its way into our area because of the border crisis.
Walker has been told and, in some cases seen, counterfeit pills being sold on the black market that have made their way into Neshoba County.
Many hydrocodone pills, meth, cocaine, and heroin are laced with this deadly drug, and law enforcement knows much of it comes straight out of Mexico.
There has to be a local source responsible for the flow of methamphetamines into our community and they should be found because we have a drug epidemic in Neshoba County.
The Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office alone has made over 600 drug-related arrests in the past nine months versus around 350 last year.
Meth, especially, is destroying people and devastating families in our community at an alarming rate.
Meth is easy to make, it is cheap and it is highly addictive. These factors create a perfect storm for the exponential increase of addiction in Neshoba County.
The new meth is much purer than anything seen. Whereas the “old” drug caused the user to tweak, made sores break out, destroyed their teeth, and forced the user to stay awake for days on end, this new meth does none of those things.
Right at 99% of the men and women incarcerated in the Neshoba County Jail were arrested due to either direct or indirect illegal drug use or involvement, Walker said his statistics show. “In our almost four years of ministry, I have not seen it this bad.”
Starting in March several ministers were given access to inmates to minister the Gospel.
“This is Sheriff Eric Clark’s decision and the results are evident,” Walker said. “I was asked to come and counsel those who are incarcerated and minister hope and healing that God offers all of us through a relationship with Christ.”
Since then, 13 inmates have made a profession of faith in Christ, he said.
In a joint effort with the Sheriff’s Office, The River has been able to place several men and women into residential treatment care.
The participants go through a rigorous vetting process up front. “These programs are working!” Walker said.
In conjunction with Youth Court Judge Amy Taylor and District Attorney Steven Kilgore, kids from ages 13 to 17 have been given another chance to learn new coping skills rather than face jail.
“If they can develop these abilities early enough in life, we believe it gives them an upper hand as they face difficulties and troubles of adulthood,” Walker said.
We have an epidemic, but there is hope because of a firm yet companionate judiciary, strong local law enforcement and mentoring programs like Philadelphia PD’s Back-To-School Bash last Saturday where they interacted with children, not to mention the great work of the Boys & Girls Club and others.
Recovery should be embraced with no shame, especially in our churches.
Since The River opened in October 2017, they have placed 294 into residential treatment care, 141 in jobs and 83 have committed their lives to Christ.
If you need help or have a loved one who needs help, call The River, (601) 504-2917. We have a serious drug crisis. We have a drug epidemic in Neshoba County. There is no shame in recovery.