Pickaway County Municipal Court Judge, Gary Dumm sees the unfiltered devastation of addiction on individuals’ families and the community all too well. Day after day, a large percentage of his caseload is devoted to using evidence-based practices to help defendants break the cycle of addiction and not just fulfill obligations to the court or a probation officer. Judge Dumm wants the people who come through the courtroom doors to be successful long after their cases are resolved.
“Anything that we can add to the arsenal in Pickaway County, that makes a positive impact on the youth is a good thing for the Community”, Dumm said in response to the Foundations4Youth drop in center that opened its doors to the public last Tuesday evening. “The foundations project is unique from the standpoint that Ohio’s rural counties generally lack the funding, or ability to set up programming. I am really proud of the individuals and organizations including the Circleville Police department– and I appreciate the willingness from everyone involved, in creating such a positive outlet for Pickaway County’s youth”, Dumm concluded.
A few miles away on the other side of Circleville on Highland Avenue, Pickaway Area Recovery Services (PARS) is recovery ground zero for many of the same people who once found themselves standing in Judge Dumm’s courtroom. “The best way to treat opioid dependence, is to prevent an individual from picking up the very first time”, Barry Bennett, Executive Director of PARS said late Thursday afternoon. “There really is a disconnect between those who struggle with addiction, and those who are fortunate enough not to. Addiction has no boundaries; it doesn’t care if you are black or white, rich or poor, young or old; it has no prejudice”.
PARS is currently funding 100% of the youth drop in center, located at 457 East Ohio Street, that will be open to youth ages 5-19 every Tuesday evening from 3-8pm. Circleville City Schools and the Circleville Police department are also involved in the partnership that is thought to be exclusively unique to Pickaway County on the state and national levels.
The Youth Drop In Center is a safe and secure place that all kids can go, get a free meal, and engage in positive after school activity. Currently some of the activities available include PlayStation, X-box, Nintendo Switch, pool, movie area, and food. “Its for all kids, and everything is free”, Shawn Baer, Circleville Police Chief said to a crowd of 82 of the estimated total of 150 people who were in attendance before and after the ribbon cutting on Tuesday Evening. “The youth center also provides opportunity for the Police department to make positive connections to the community”, Bennett added. “Eventually we look to add additional resources; extending the Pickaway County Library reading program, and including a resume workshop, homework tutoring, and incentive program that will focus on positive reinforcements that reward good behavior”.
After many of Circleville’s local businesses such as Circle-D, Pickaway Lanes, Circleville City Pool, and the Movie House permanently closed, the narrative was negative, and many residents looked to elected officials for answers and solutions. During opening remarks at the youth drop in on Tuesday evening, Circleville Mayor Don Mcllroy acknowledged the void created by the departure of these businesses and recognized the ongoing demand for local drug treatment and prevention. Mcllroy personally thanked Andrew Benegar, from Pickaway County Community Action, Berry Bennett Executive Director at PARS, and credited Circleville Police Officer David McIntyre with the efforts of making this project a reality. “We hear you”, Mcllroy said. “We know what we need, and we are continuing to help people help themselves, and a lot of you are a part of that. You’ve done a wonderful job”, Mcllroy said to the capacity crowd.
As drug treatment, education, and prevention becomes more widely accepted, local resources like the Youth Drop In will prove as a very valuable resource. Drug abuse directly impacts children. Adults who suffer from addiction expose children to drugs, violence, and other unpredictable behavior. In many cases, parents who abuse substances fail to provide basic care for their children.
Although the Youth Drop In Center is designed for all kids, PARS Director Barry Bennett underlined the importance of identifying at risk youth, and interrupting negative behavior with positive reinforcement. According to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use and Prevention February 2017 report, risk factors that can influence drug and alcohol abuse include early aggressive behavior, lack of parental supervision, academic problems, undiagnosed mental health problems, peer substance use, drug availability, poverty, peer rejection, and child abuse or neglect.
“The most important work to be done (at the youth center), is to LISTEN to these kids”, Bennett said. Currently the center is staffed by Circleville Police Officers, PARS employees, and volunteers from the community who have passed a background check process. Circleville Police Chief Shawn Baer was completely overwhelmed by all the positive support from the community on this project. “I’m very, very thankful, and I think this is only the beginning of something bigger”, Baer concluded.