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Town hall focuses on drug, alcohol prevention

The topic of Central Mississippi Prevention Service’s town hall meeting was juvenile alcohol abuse and the opioid abuse.

The theme was vigilance; being aware of what’s happening, even at home.

The meeting was fourth town hall meeting held by Central Mississippi Prevention.

“It’s sponsored by SAMSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,” Central Mississippi director Joe Johnson said, adding the event is held every two years.

He said the opioid epidemic was selected as the topic, “But in addition to this, it had a specific concentration on underage drinking, because it’s along the same category of the most used an abused substances.”

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. concentrated on the alcohol issue.

“You need to educate your children on the importance of underage drinking,”’ he told the parents attending the meeting. “We need to make certain that we have a way to bring understanding and awareness of how serious this is.”

“Our community is changing,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said. “It’s changing because of our surroundings. Drug use is rampant. So many of you may not see it, but drug use is rampant. Alcohol use is rampant.

“It’s not just with the young people in this community; it’s rampant with middle age people, older people. So many people are using opioids, and you have to realize that if you use opioids, sooner or later it’s going to take control of your life if you abuse it,” he said.

“We are paying attention to what is happening around us,” he said, adding the only way to beat the problem “is if we all work together.”

Vicksburg police Lt. Jeff Merritt, said the opioid problem in the area reached a situation where people were breaking into homes to steal pills, “doctor shop,” and stealing prescription pads to get opioids.

“We have people selling their own legitimately prescribed pills,” he said, adding he has arrested elderly people for selling the pills.

And the age of people abusing the drugs is getting younger.

“At one time the ages were 20s, 30s and 40s,” he said. “Now, we’re seeing kids.”

He recalled a recent case involving a wreck where a 19-year-old had taken alcohol and oxicodone.

“It’s not just somebody 20, 30 years old,” Merritt said, adding there have been cases where children have held pill parties where multiple drugs are poured into a bowl.

He said people shouldn’t turn “a blind eye,” if they see potential problems, saying anyone could be involved with drug and alcohol abuse. If anyone sees a business selling alcohol illegally or a drug sale they should report it, he said adding they do not have leave their name.

“We need to become aware,” Johnson said. “If we see something, we can’t turn a blind eye. If you see someone buying drugs or drinking, report it. You might save someone’s life.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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