Relationships… It’s not only a word that was heard several times by those who participated in a community forum last week in Nevada; it’s also a major building block when it comes to fighting drugs.

The forum about drugs and opioids brought in between 30 to 40 people last week to discuss what can be done to combat drug abuse in our local area. Not only is the development of positive relationships with people, young and old, important in curbing drug abuse; the relationships developed between all those entities who take part in different aspects of providing care and services in the community are strengthened by meeting and learning from each other.

Those at the forum, hosted by the city of Nevada, represented a number of agencies in the area, including Central Iowa Psychological Services, the Nevada Schools, Youth and Social Services, Center for Creative Justice and Creative Counseling Services, Story Medical Center, Mary Greeley Medical Center, both pharmacies in Nevada, CIPS and Story County. Also on hand was state legislator Dave Deyoe of Nevada, a couple of retired people and the father of an elementary student.

“I am blown away by the expertise and passion in our community to combat substance abuse,” said Nevada Mayor Brett Barker, following the meeting. Barker, who is also vice president of operations for NuCara Pharmacy, was a big part of putting together the forum. “A clear first step is to increase communication and collaboration between organizations as we complement each other’s efforts.” He said the city plans to compile a list of community substance abuse resources to better help residents seek assistance.

Many of those resources and things that are being done, like electronic prescribing of medications, were talked about at the forum. Deyoe discussed House File 2377, which would place limits on opioid prescriptions, implement Good Samaritan laws for those who report overdoses and require physicians to file every prescription electronically to avoid circumstances when paper prescriptions are subject to forgeries.

It was clear in listening to the various professionals who spoke that there are many resources available to help those who are fighting addiction, and to help families who have members suffering from an addiction. “Knowing what all the community resources are … and how we can connect a patient with someone in the community,” was an important thing to learn, commented Story Medical’s Linda Wendt, CNO.

County Attorney Jessica Reynolds brought to light that the uptick in convenience store robberies of late are oftentimes motivated by a person’s “need to pay off drug debt.” She also indicated that methamphetamines continue to be the main drug concern in Story County. While the incidence of meth labs has gone down in our area, she said officials are now seeing meth brought in “basically from Mexico.” In many cases where they find meth, children have to be removed from homes. “It’s an aspect that I’m very concerned about,” she said.

From her standpoint, Reynolds said, the county wants to find probation and treatment for nonviolent drug abusers, but it also has to remove and protect residents from the more violent abusers. Reynolds said while she knows that Story County offers some great services to those who are in jail here, she was interested in learning about the other treatment options that are out in the county, many of which were talked about by people at the meeting. The county and several others also mentioned how unfortunate it is to see the closing of the Curt Forbes half-way house in Ames earlier this year.

Several in attendance commented that they were recovering addicts or were there because of drug abuse in their families. A couple of people at the meeting have even worked with inmates at the state prisons. One woman commented that drug problems are basically a case of supply and demand. “You need to stop it at the beginning, because if there is no one wanting to use … there will be no supply,” she said, and she said relationships need to be developed so we can “make people be accountable for their actions and become productive members of society.”

An entire group of people from Nevada Schools spoke about all the types of intervention and education programs the school uses to try to help young people make wise decisions when it comes to drugs. They talked about how they had, as a district, started a small group called CAT — Community Alliance Team — for school personnel and local law enforcement and other critical community members to come together and help each other with specific problems concerning drugs and mental health.

City Administrator Matt Mardesen shared that it is a major goal of his to put a School Resource Officer back in the Nevada School District. “I don’t know how long it will take, but it goes back to relationships,” Mardesen said. Police officers need to build relationships with young people and show them “we’re not the bad guys.”

Mardesen also talked about Nevada being one of the few police agencies that can use Narcan (naloxone hydrochloride injection) to treat serious overdoses, because all of Nevada’s officers are also EMT-trained. He said while he’d like to report that Narcan hasn’t been needed in Nevada, that’s not the case. “We’ve used it three times since October,” he said.

In talking about what the community is up against in fighting drugs, Mardesen said the truth of the matter is that despite all the communication tools at an officer’s disposal or school officials’ disposal, “these folks we deal with (on drugs)… their network is better than ours.”

Cheri DeGroot, who is a probation officer with Center for Creative Justice and who also work with Creative Counseling Services, said she was glad that the forum was held, and while she did know many in the room, she also met a few new people. “We all know there are facilities (to help people), but it would help if we all had information (about what each entity can do),” she said. “Like if someone doesn’t have insurance, how can we help them? Because the faster we get them services, it’s better for the community.”

Chris Boor, who introduced himself at the forum as “just a dad,” listened intently to what everyone said during the forum. And afterward, he said his biggest take-away was in what the school personnel presented. “I was thoroughly impressed with Emily Kruse’s (elementary counselor) responses, as well as the other staff at the schools… impressed enough to where I’m going to explore CAT (Community Alliance Team) a bit more,” he said. “It sounds like something I might be able to help with, if allowed.”