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Neighborhood Drug Watch: Creating Community to Battle Epidemic

Oct 01, 2017 11:10AM ● Published by Hilary Daninhirsch

The drug epidemic: if you think it can’t happen here, in your neighborhood, in your backyard—we are sorry to report that it already has. Fortunately, there are people like Gail Carpenter, Shaney Mitchell and Susan Austin, who decided to start a grassroots organization to help educate, combat and eradicate the problem.

“First and foremost, the goal is to save lives,” said Gail Carpenter of Adams Township, cofounder of Neighborhood Drug Watch.

Spurred on by hearing first-hand, personal stories of drug-related tragedies experienced by people in their communities, Carpenter and Mitchell began to do some research. They were not able to find any group that focused on helping communities target drug issues, including keeping on the lookout for drug activity and providing help for those affected.

With the help of volunteers, the women began to gather resources as well as reach out to therapists, schools, the police and other community officials. Carpenter likens the group to neighborhood crime watches.

“The concept begins with just getting communities to come out of denial that they have any problem; if they stay in denial, we can’t work toward any solution,” said Carpenter.

With this group, the women hope to reach anyone who has ever been touched by the drug problem. The organization focuses on both prevention and help for sufferers, along with educating the public about the dangers of drugs and providing resources as to where to get help.

One thing that folks may be surprised to learn about the drug epidemic is that it is an equal opportunity destroyer. “This can happen in any socioeconomic group,” said Carpenter. “It doesn’t matter how much money your family makes or what school district you go to, it doesn’t matter what you drive, what you wear or how educated you are; that is the number one denial.”

The first meeting was held in early September at a location in Adams Township, and it was well-attended, attracting people from as far away as Slippery Rock and Rochester. The featured speaker was a woman who tragically lost her son to a drug overdose; she read from her late son’s journal. Other information was shared, including a statement from local authorities about the reality of the problem, how schools can become involved and more. A question-and-answer period followed.

Although Carpenter noted that everyone showed up with a different intent or goal, she said, “Collectively, the main concern is, how do we get through to children, and their parents, before it’s too late?”

In addition to monthly meetings, which will be held in different locations, Neighborhood Drug Watch dispenses information via a website at www.neighborhooddrugwatch.com, as well as through an active Facebook page.

Though the group is in its infancy, Carpenter hopes to grow Neighborhood Drug Watch statewide, if not nationally. “We don’t want to keep this in one community; we want to save as many lives as possible,” said Carpenter.

While other drug support groups exist, Carpenter said that what sets Neighborhood Drug Watch apart is the fact that they truly want to break down barriers and engage with the community. “We are not a business, nor are we keeping ourselves at a distance. We are about helping to save lives so we want everyone involved and collectively, as a village, working toward a solution.”

The next meeting will be held on November 9. Please visit the website for details.

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