Coalition targeting heroin/opiate addiction taking root in Sussex County

SUSSEX COUNTY — A re-energized anti-drug coalition rooted in Sussex County is gearing up to join the battle against the heroin epidemic in Southern Delaware.

Representatives of more than a dozen agencies attended the second monthly meeting of Sussex County Action Prevention Coalition April 7 that laid more foundation in this effort.

“It’s two-pronged,” said Jim Martin, chairman of SCAPC. “We’re going after the agencies, and then the kids in the schools. We need to do a better job engaging the schools.”


Monthly meetings of the Sussex County Action Prevention Coalition, an anti-drug effort, are held at Stein Highway Church of God’s Lighted Pathway Family Life Center in Seaford.


“This thing I believe is in the early stages. We’re like in the shallow part of the pool as far as what this heroin epidemic is going to do our society … 5, 10, 20 years out. I believe there is a tsunami of like a 30-foot wave coming, and it’s going to sweep over the state of Delaware. And we’re not even going to know what hit us,” Mr. Martin said. “We need to do something. We need to take action.”

One of SPAPC’s initial aims is to fill 12 spokes of the “community wheel” in becoming a Drug-Free Community: youth, parents, business community, media, schools, youth serving organizations, law enforcement agencies, faith-based organizations, civic-volunteer groups, healthcare professionals, state and local governments and other organizations involved in substance abuse.

“The reason for the sectors is so that we can be part of Drug Free Community, and they have grant money,” said active coalition member Dan Southern, Senior Pastor of Stein Highway Church of God that provides its Lighted Pathway facility for SCAPC meetings. “But we don’t have to wait until those 12 sectors are in place to start doing things. We need to go ahead and start putting together action committees.”

“My three goals are we need to focus primarily first on prevention. Secondly, we need to focus on education, and thirdly upon community involvement,” said Pastor Southern.

“It’s a lot of work at first. Then you’ll see events. We’re going to plug in with all the people we need to plug into,” said Mr. Martin. “In order to conquer addiction in our communities, we need teamwork, we need programs; we need education.”

“We are in the infant stage. Most people want to see a whole lot done right away,” said Pastor Southern, who recovered from alcohol and speed and “upper-type” drug addiction. “But it is going to take a while to get a lot of momentum going – the right kind of momentum. We can get momentum going just by announcing, ‘Hey, there is a drug problem; let’s come and talk about it.’ But I don’t want it to be a coalition that is just talking about the problem, I want it to be a coalition that is actually addressing the problem, and by doing that we may have to go in and do some surveys in some of the schools. We may have to get some information gathering from different sectors – society, even business as to the workforce, as in how this is affecting the workforce.”

Heroin addiction is devastating people young and old, destroying family unity and its criminal collateral effects continue to make police blotter news, Mr. Martin said.

“We’re talking about crime. I believe that people are going to be held up for five bucks, shot in their cars for $5, and for loose change,” said Mr. Martin. “There is a thing called dope sickness; it comes over the heroin addict and they can’t think of anything else but solving that problem. They’ll let their babies starve. They are so concerned about dope sickness, it completely takes over their brain. That’s why they steal. That’s why the petty crimes have gone up.”

Mr. Martin can speak to the horror of addiction from experience. He’s a recovering addict.

“I was opiates and alcohol,” said Mr. Martin. “I’ve been clean 6 1/2 years. I’ve learned it the hard way.”

Having traveled the road to recovery as a resident of the Oxford House program in Lewes, Mr. Martin now devotes his energy to helping others who have fallen into that addiction abyss. He has opened 23 three-quarter houses statewide and runs the ACE (Acceptance Change Empowerment) Peer Resource Center, located near the Stein Highway railroad bridge in Seaford.

“We’re a drop-in center, no appointment necessary. We’re very hands-on. We have a peer committee and we’re all a bunch of knuckleheads, but we’re not knuckleheads anymore. We used to be knuckleheads, me included.”

His 23rd three-quarter house is located on that property.

SCAPC has had a presence in Western Sussex for about four years.

Seeds to re-energize the coalition were planted through Heroin Alert, a program presented by Marie Allen, whose daughter died from a heroin overdose, and friendships and connections born at Shift Destiny, a unified faith-based collaboration held last September geared to heal the pain and suffering of hunger, homelessness and drugs – particularly heroin addiction. Pastor Southern spoke at the Shift Destiny about his battle with drug/alcohol addiction.

SCAPC plans to meet the first Tuesday of every month at the Stein Highway Church of God’s Lighted Pathway.

Each month, the meeting will spotlight an organization or agency. The May 5 meeting (10 a.m.) will showcase the Stevenson House, with law enforcement on the agenda for SCAPC’s June meeting.

Meetings are open to the public.

“Anyone that has been impacted by drugs – it doesn’t have to be heroin, but that’s our biggest problem – and anyone that is providing services,” said Mr. Martin.

“What we really need is more involvement from the schools and school boards, in my opinion,” Pastor Southern said. “And I think we really need some of the leadership in the community to step to the plate and put a face on some of this stuff, whether it be through legislation or through towns that are willing to step to the plate. Even the County, the County Council could do that.”

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