SAFFORD – The majority of societal ills stem from drug and alcohol addiction – which is a sickness that, through time, dedication and assistance, can be cured.
On Aug. 25, community leaders and local experts will hold the “Breaking the Silence Through Community Unity” town hall meeting at the Manor House at 15 E. U.S. Highway 70 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The meeting will discuss drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. The public is encouraged to attend this free event.
The event will feature a number of people immersed in the battle against addiction, including Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson, Safford Police Chief Joe Brugman, Graham County Substance Coalition Coordinator Kathy Grimes, faith based leaders, medical experts and Mariah Hile, a treatment expert who is the market development manager for Valley Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing drug and alcohol addiction treatment at an affordable price. According to its website, Valley Hope first opened its doors in Norton, Kansas in 1967 and now operates 16 treatment centers in seven states.
Judge Peterson told the Courier that the prevalent root cause to most felonies in Graham County stem from drug or alcohol abuse.
“Almost all felonies committed in Graham County have something to do with substance abuse, whether it is possession or use of an illegal substance, misuse of prescription drugs, driving a motor vehicle while impaired, aggravated assault or property crimes, such as burglary, trafficking in stolen property, theft, shoplifting, etcetera,” Peterson said.
He added that while people who commit crimes must be held accountable for their actions, eradication of the root cause of their criminal conduct must be done to make the community safer.
“Too many young people involve themselves in the drug culture without knowing the profoundly negative impact of their choices until it is too late,” Peterson said. “We can address this problem on two fronts; prevention through education and treatment of offenders once they have paid their debt to society. If we can assist children not ever to start abusing substances, we will reap untold positive benefits. If an individual makes the wrong choice and becomes addicted to illegal substances, we need to have the best-available services to assist them to be rehabilitated after they have been held accountable for their wrongdoing.”
Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery CEO and President Chris Taylor, one of the sponsors of the event, said while months of preparation has gone into the Town Hall, the meeting itself will just be the beginning.
“We plan for this to be a launching point into a comprehensive strategy to change the public perception of addiction in our community,” Taylor said. “In conjunction with this, the Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition is launching a new subcommittee focused solely on recovery. As chairman (of the subcommittee), my overall goal is to lay the groundwork for future treatment-oriented organizations to set up in the Gila Valley.”
A main factor in a person’s successful rehabilitation is often breaking from habits and associations that trigger a relapse. Often, those who do so have been at an inpatient treatment, something that is currently not available in Graham County. Taylor said he hopes that such a place could open locally if larger treatment-oriented organizations set up shop.
“It’s a lofty goal for sure, but I believe the time has come where this new step will happen with the cooperation of the entire community,” he said.