“I stated publicly about four years ago that the city of Beech Grove has an issue with heroin,” Beech Grove, Ind. Mayor Dennis Buckley said. “That really wasn’t a popular statement to some, but it was an honest answer and I wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything. I was just going to tell the truth. And I think the first solution to our problem is to admit we’ve got one.”
The Beech Grove Comprehensive Drug-Free Coalition was created two years later, in 2017, in response to the mayor’s statement. The faith-based roundtable, that includes members of the Beech Grove community, reached out to fellow community member and University of Indianapolis alumna Diana Hendricks, who took on the proposal of a drug-free coalition and has since expanded it.
“There’s just not a lot of prevention organizations out there for substance issues,” Hendricks said. “We have treatment, we have recovery, but there’s not a lot of funding for prevention so basically all of us on the coalition are doing this for free.”
To combat this drug problem, the coalition has had programs in place throughout many parts of the community. Hendricks said that they offer courses for drug prevention from fourth through ninth grade in Beech Grove Schools, which is a major partner of the coalition. Through training, the teachers have implemented courses that teach life skills, anti-bullying measures, and ways to stay away from substance abuse. They also offer a quarterly educational program for adults on removing risk factors, such as leaving alcoholic drinks out on the table for children, and implementing protective factors instead.
At community events, the coalition hands out information about their coalition, refrigerator magnets that have hotline numbers for mental health services and a biodegradable medicine pouch called a Deterra Drug Deactivation System. The pouch is used safely dispose of unused medicine, according to deterrasystem.com. They invite those who are in recovery to go to the back of the tent and, if they are comfortable, sign their first name and the year they started recovery on a banner. This lets those struggling know that they are fully supported by the coalition.
“The United States, they don’t want to understand prevention,” Hendricks said. “All they know is there’s treatment and recovery. And so getting people to understand and talk about prevention, you have to have something that entices them.”
In order to bring parents into the booth and be informed, the coalition advertises that they let kids paint rocks, which the group calls call “inspiration” rock painting.
While the parents talk with the coalition members and the children paint rocks, various members of the coalition take pictures to put on the group’s Facebook page: Beech Grove Drug Free. From there, parents can find more information about events and the coalition, Hendricks said. She said that the parents think it is exciting to see their kids and their creations on a website.
“So that brings the parents in so we can then get the parents the information,” Hendricks said. “And I would say 60 percent of the parents say ‘Oh my goodness, I do have medications in my medicine cabinet, I did not realize that could be a risk factor.’”
Hendricks said that by educating parents on risk factors, the coalition is providing them with ways to prevent substance abuse.
Without partners, the coalition would only stand as an educational force that allows free, discrete communication that speaks about prevention. However, with partners such as Drug-Free Marion County and local hospitals, the coalition can direct people towards recovery and treatment. According to Hendricks, the coalition brings a representative from a medical facility every time they do a community event, and almost every time, someone requests for help for a friend or themselves.