By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

The Trousdale Prevention Coalition’s meeting on Monday, Feb. 3 focused on finding resources to help those in the community struggling with addiction issues.

“(This is) an issue that affects those who live in poverty and those who live in a mansion,” said Tim Diffenderfer of the Trousdale County Health Department. “It’s something that as a community we can work with getting people connected with resources to help them.”

Jeff Dickson, the director of the 15th Judicial District’s Drug Court, spoke on the successes and failures his program has seen in its 18 years of existence.

Drug Court is open to non-violent felony offenders in the 15th Judicial District, which covers Trousdale, Macon, Smith, Wilson and Jackson counties. The voluntary program lasts from 18 to 24 months and begins with 30 days of inpatient treatment, then follows with intensive outpatient treatment and counseling.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Will Johnson of the Tennessee National Guard speaks on anti-drug efforts.

Dickson said Drug Court has grown since its 2002 founding, when just three of 24 enrollees completed the program. Now, approximately seven of 10 who enter the program graduate and remain clean for at least five years afterward.

“What we do with the program is try to provide an intervention,” Dickson said. “We see a lot of folks caught in the cycle of addiction… they’ve committed offenses directed by their addictive behavior… Somewhere in there has to be a break.”

While Drug Court is designed for felony offenders, Jackson County is experimenting with a similar program for misdemeanor offenses (sentenced to less than a year incarceration).

Drug Court requires funding, but also cooperation between judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and counselors to succeed, Dickson said when asked what it would take to launch a misdemeanor program in Trousdale County.

Dickson also announced the creation of First Step Fridays, a one-on-one meeting group. Each Friday in February at 11 a.m., volunteers who have gone through addiction treatment will be available to meet with those seeking help with addiction for themselves or for loved ones, in order to offer advice on how to find such help.

First Step Fridays will be held at the Wilson County Judicial Center in Lebanon, but is open to anyone in the 15th district needing help.

“It’s not treatment; it’s education, information and referral,” Dickson said. “They’ve been through this process and who better to answer those questions?”

Attendees also heard from Trousdale Sheriff Ray Russell, who said his office sees methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin. While there is not as much manufacture of meth locally, Russell said, the cheap availability of imported meth on the street often makes it the drug of choice, even with juveniles.

“Heroin is coming back; methamphetamine is more potent today,” Russell said.

Another resource promoted was Tennessee REDLINE, a 24/7 referral line for addiction and mental health issues. Anyone can call 1-800-889-9789 to learn about resources for those problems and REDLINE currently receives over 1,000 calls monthly.

Will Johnson of the Tennessee National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force spoke on the need for community efforts to fight the problem of drug addiction.

“It basically boils down to education,” Johnson said. “It’s youth, parents, businesses, media, schools, volunteer groups… Building a coalition starts with each and every one of you.”

The Trousdale Prevention Coalition will hold its next meeting on Monday, March 2 at 6 p.m. at the Community Center.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]