PITTSBORO — It’s said that the first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging it. That’s just what residents of Pittsboro have done after attending Thursday night’s Substance Abuse Awareness Meeting, which was put on by the Pittsboro Police Department.
The meeting took place at the Pittsboro Primary School, 540 Osborne Ave., and provided information about local trends regarding drugs and testimonies from people affected by drug use. Due to the amount of people who registered to attend, the meeting had to be moved from the town hall.
To start the meeting, Pittsboro Police Chief Christi Patterson gave those in attendance some statistics.
“Typically, the Pittsboro Police Department probably makes between 40 and 45 arrests a year,” she said. “This year we’re up to over 60. Also we used to never have burglaries in town, (but) about two or three years ago we started having two to three a year. We would solve them and every single suspect was an admitted drug addict feeding their addiction. They were either friends or family of the victim.”
She said this year, there have been even more burglaries in town.
“We’ve actually had 12 burglary theft arrests, so far this year,” Patterson said. “Ten out of the 12 were admitted drug addicts, mostly on heroin.”
For the county this year, she said there have been 16 armed robberies.
“Out of the 16, the main reason the defendant gave was a heroin addiction,” Patterson said. “(The county has) also prosecuted 40 burglaries this year and again the main reason that was given is drug addiction.”
Despite the startling statistics, Patterson said she feels the community can come together to defeat the problem.
“I’m very proud to be part of this community,” she said. “We’re a strong community, we’re a caring community, and I think we can come together as a community and help fight this problem.”
The first speaker of the night was Frankie Andrews, North Carolina area director for the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse (NCAPDA).
Andrews was personally affected by prescription drug abuse after he lost his nephews, Matthew Absher, 25, and Brandon Moxley, 26, from overdoses on prescription drugs in 2006 and ‘10, respectively.
“Some things that I’ve been able to do is try to be proactive and try to raise awareness about my family’s tragedy,” Andrews said. “We’ve got flyers that we hand out. I’ve started a scholarship back home that the winner has to write an essay on prescription drug abuse and they have to present it to their graduating class. It’s my hope that peers educating peers will have more of an impact than some old man up here trying to tell a story about his family.”
He said prescription drug abuse has become a national epidemic.
“The last statistics I’ve seen is someone dies every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose,” Andrews said. “By the time I get done running my mouth, someone will have died from a prescription drug overdose. We’ve got to do something about this. We as family members, we as parents, and we as peers, have got to do something about this and education is the first step.”
He said in his home, he’s already started the education with his 7 year old son by locking up all of the medicine in his house.
“Together, we’ll lock this medicine up,” Andrews said. “We lock it up, and when he needs it, we go unlock it together. I give him this medicine, and I explain to him why he’s getting this medicine. When it’s time to get taken off the medicine, I explain to him why he’s being taken off of it. It’s my hope, that by doing this with him, it will be second nature for him when he gets older.”
He said he has already witnessed the difference it’s made.
“We can go places like my mother’s house and he can see a bottle of medicine on the cabinet and he’ll say, ‘(Grandma) that’s supposed to be locked up,’” Andrews said. “So it’s already become second nature. I don’t play games with my son when it comes to medicine.”
The last speaker was Jazzmin Brown, 20, from Greenwood, who only 10 months ago was fighting for her life after an overdose on heroin.
Due to the overdose, Brown is now paralyzed, but it hasn’t stopped her from trying to make a difference. She’s started Jazzmin’s Journey and acts as a mentor and motivational speaker.
“Obviously, God has a plan,” she said. “ … I think God wants me to share my story just so maybe, just maybe, I can plant a seed in someone’s brain not to touch, experiment, lick, or even think about using drugs.”
Brown said to this point, she’s overcome many odds.
“When I was first in this position, I wasn’t supposed to come off life support — your girl’s off life support,” she said. “Then I wasn’t supposed to come off the trache (tracheotomy), well I’m off the trache, but I have the scar to prove it and it’s a sideways heart. Whenever I was on the trache though, I couldn’t talk because your airways are opened up, which means I wouldn’t have a voice, (but) God has a different plan and he wants me to relay the message.”
She added that doctors have told her she won’t walk again. Her answer: “Watch me.”
Brown urged parents to teach their kids about the dangers of drugs and to use her story as an example.
“Parents, school your kids on drugs,” she said. “I want to say over-exaggerate to them, but there’s no over-exaggerating about it. Strongly express to them drugs will lead you to three places: Jails, institutions, and death. If they don’t believe you, let them know about Jazzmin Brown.”
For more information on the NCAPDA, visit the website at www.ncapda.org. For more information about drugs locally, visit the Hendricks County Substance Abuse Task Force website at www.hcsatf.org.
To follow Jazzmin’s Journey, search Facebook for Jazzmin’s Journey: Directed by God, or on Twitter @Jazzie911.