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Residents want better drug addiction programs

by ANDREW MACIEJEWSKI - amaciejewski@wabashplaindealer.com

The Wabash County Board of Commissioners say they will consider moving the meeting’s hours after two women asked the board questions about drug addiction issues in the community on Monday.

Wabash residents Lisa Shananbarger and Sheryll Ulshafer addressed the board during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, asking about what local government is doing to combat the growing drug issues around the county. Shananbarger said she knows other residents who want to attend the meetings, but their work schedules conflict with the 9 a.m. start time.

“I work 10-hour days. I cannot – I would get pointed if I came down here for one hour,” Shananbarger said. “So it makes me unable to attend the meetings… It’s just so hard to attend.”

Board member Scott Givens said the board currently has meetings during work hours to ensure it can get answers from people in county government while they are at work, and the County would have to pay workers overtime if the Commissioners held their meetings after normal government business hours like the Wabash City Council and Wabash County Council does.

Board President Brian Haupert said he would consider changing the hours.

Shananbarger and Ulshafer asked the board what the County was doing to fight the drug addiction issues because, they said, the county is running out of time.

“We have to be smart enough to realize that, ‘OK, it was ok back ten years ago, but here we are ten years later and we’re still not getting anywhere,’” Ulshafer said. “I mean somebody’s gotta step up to the plate and realize that we have got to get a system in order or we’re going to lose them all. It might not be your kids, but it might be your grandkids, tomorrow. And it will happen.”

Wabash County Sheriff Robert Land said he is working on trying to get a treatment center in Wabash County.

“Both of these ladies know that this addiction thing has several aspects we can work on, and I’ll be the first to tell you that we are shy on treatment centers,” Land said.

Givens said the County is currently paying for a drug rehabilitation program ran out of the Miami County Jail in Peru, Ind..

“Do we have anything going on here, though? What are we working on here for our community,” Ulshafer asked.

Land said his department is working to open a pain patient program at the Bowen Center that would help with the opioid crisis, but the Bowen Center was working on getting trained personnel into their Wabash facility.

The pain program through the Bowen Center will cost to enroll, Land said.

He said there is a drug steering committee that meets every month, where they talk about these issues.

Board member Barry Eppley said many of the programs in place are for people who have already been convicted of drug related charges and not those who are addicted and want help.

The two also wanted to know if the County had looked into free, government funding provided for drug addiction therapy. None of the board members replied, but Land said he got information when he met with Senator Joe Donnelly in February.

Land said he is looking into applying for money through the State in order to improve the quality of drug addiction help within the county for both convicted and those not convicted of drug-related charges.