Continuing the fight against drugs

The Monroe County Coalition for Drug Free Communities gave a presentation to local government boards and asked these entities to sign a proclamation recognizing October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. Pictured, front row, from left, are county commissioners Vicki Koerber, Bob Elmore and Delbert Wittenauer; second row: coalition members Anne King, Bill Rebholz, Gary Most, Bob Hill, Chris Hitzemann and Mary Ellen Niemietz. (Alan Dooley photo)

As much as the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities works to bring substance abuse awareness to the forefront, there will continue to be individuals who have already chosen the wrong path.

That’s why a program such as Adult Redeploy Illinois serves as an effective tool for pulling those who suffer a drug addiction away from a life of crime. The program, which includes financial incentives for municipalities to divert non-violent offenders from prison, has been used in the county court system over the past two years.

“Incarceration is not always the answer for non-violent individuals who are struggling with an addiction,” Human Support Services Executive Director Anne King said in a press release. “This program gives us an alternative that is much less expensive for the taxpayer, and has been shown to have more effective results for the individual.”

King said there are now five individuals using the program. Since the county began taking advantage, 10 people have been referred. Participants continually report to their probation officer and case manager and undergo random drug testing. 

King said a referral requires the person be in the court system and that a judge signs off on their participation. Once the individual enters into the program, she said the person will undergo an assessment that HSS administers to determine what services are needed.

King said most treatment plans include a combination of substance abuse and mental health treatments. Additionally, every person referred will complete an approximately 40-week cognitive behavioral curriculum called “Thinking for a Change, An Integral Approach to Changing Offender Behavior.”

Such a curriculum includes development of social skills and learning to problem solve in a way that empowers a person to refrain from criminal behavior.

“It’s a phenomenal curriculum. And when you have that and substance abuse and mental health treatments, it has a powerful impact on individuals that participate in the program,” King said.

Of the 10 cases in the county, King said 50 percent have been successes. Those who fail end up going to prison.

“If they are successful they can go on to the next phase of the model which is a community restorative phase, in which they are paired up with a community member who can help them get a job and learn how to function in society in a different way,” King said. “There have been individuals who are not successful, and when that is the case, probation will be revoked and they’ll go to prison. We like to see people be successful, but that’s not always the way it will go.”

King added that results will improve as awareness increases.

“It’s a collaborative approach to helping an individual be restored to positively function in the community,” she said.

Coalition proclamation
In an effort to raise awareness to this program, King and other members of the coalition recently gave presentations to the Monroe County Board, Waterloo City Council and Columbia City Council. 

“I thought (you guys) picked up real well that this is a great alternative to prison,” coalition chairperson Bill Rebholz said of the presentations at Monday’s general coalition meeting.

The coalition also took the time to share with these boards the coalition’s history and the progress made over the years. At the end of the presentation, each respective board read and signed a proclamation recognizing October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

The proclamation begins by addressing that “substance use disorders are a treatable yet serious health care issue and our community must continue to take steps to address the problems of our citizens.” Additionally, the proclamation lists key data pulled from the 2016 county youth survey results and from the Monroe County Coroner’s Office.

Monroe County Coroner Bob Hill said there have been 25 EMS calls for drug overdoses in the county in 2017.

Local events
To continue drawing attention to National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, the coalition has two major events planned in the community. The first of these is a forum at the Monroe County Courthouse in Waterloo. 

Slated for 3 p.m. Sunday, the event will include speakers ranging from law enforcement personnel to Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann, and various booths with pamphlets and other items will be on hand.

A coalition event later in the month will coincide with National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. For this event, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 28, the coalition will set up at Columbia City Hall and Waterloo Schnucks. 

Anyone wanting to drop off unused prescriptions can do so at these locations. In addition, the community can access prescription drug drop boxes at the Columbia and Waterloo police departments and Wightman Pharmacy in Waterloo.

New non-profit established
Coalition members are not the only ones establishing goals in October. Sarah Giglotto, a local community activist rooted in the fight against substance abuse, recently established a non-profit organization.

“October is a busy month… Wow. God is good,” she posted recently on Facebook. “City (council) meetings in (three) towns, all kinds of coalition stuff… Narcan certification, counseling certifications, final designs for my shirts are done… and being printed. 

“Besides the hashtag shirts (I) created (I) have (two) designs that are done and ready for orders. I’ll have order forms. Woohooooo. Official name of my foundation. ‘Their struggle; my mission.’”

Giglotto said she wants the basics of the foundation to include addiction counseling, substance abuse anonymous meetings, connecting people to rehabilitation services, and presenting her resources to local government boards.

She said she would also like to share “The Heroin Project,” a Madison County-based documentary raising awareness to the heroin problem in the community, in area schools. Giglotto said she would eventually like to establish a 501(c)(3) for “Their struggle; my mission.”

However, such a task requires a certain level of fundraising. She is currently having T-shirts printed to bring in needed funds.

One of these shirts has the words “Surrender and heal what the devil created” encircling a man kneeling in surrender with a syringe in hand. Another shirt includes the words “Other side of the tracks. Helping addicts heal,” along with the image of a person dropping a syringe while walking along train tracks.

For more information or to order a shirt, go to the Facebook page “Their Struggle is My Mission” or email

“My statement and mission is all in the name… Their struggle is my mission,” she added. “Self explanatory. I’m here to help with the struggle. Educate. Rehabilitate. Heal what the devil created.”

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