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Prevention Task Force plans addictions dialogue

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

The City of Huntington Prevention Task Force plans to hold another community dialogue, this time to look at the issue of addictions.

The task force began holding these community dialogues in 2017.

Last year’s topics ranged from race to the LGBTQ community. Each dialogue has a different topic to focus on, but most start out with a panel discussion made up of people who represent the topic and then audience members have the opportunity to ask questions via notecards.

At the end of the dialogue, attendees are asked to fill out an evaluation form where they are able to note what they learned and what they would like future dialogues to focus on.

Jenna Strick, Social Justice Outreach and Development Coordinator for the Victory Noll Center and the convener for the task force, said they noticed that last year’s audience members would frequently note that they would like a dialogue focused on drug and alcohol addictions.

With that, Strick said the force decided it was important to address.

The first dialogue of this year looked at the perspective of individuals in recovery and hearing their stories. The second one focused on loved ones of those who are addicted, and the third one which is taking place on July 23 at 6 p.m. will focus on the legal and justice system. Strick said they will focus on how the different organizations and agencies that are in place within the justice system, such as law enforcement, drug court, probation and prosecution, view addictions.

The fourth dialogue of the year, which will be held in October, will focus on prevention and other treatment and recovery options.

Strick said they want to focus on the varying perspectives of the tough topic by looking at personal stories, as it’s hard to argue with someone’s real-life experiences.

“Our main goal is to use stories and to hear from people’s experience in order for us as the listeners, as the audience participants, to have a different perspective on the topic that we’re discussing,” she said. “As they’re talking about being vulnerable and sharing from their life story it changes a listener. Not to a point to agreeing fully, but just giving another perspective.”

The task force started having these dialogues to carry out the city council’s mission statement, which talks about being a more inclusive and diverse community.

Stirk said they want to allow a place for tough topics to be discussed and to allow dialogue – which is a two-way street.

“We don’t always land in agreement. Sometimes we walk out of the room in disagreement, but we’ve left feeling heard, being heard, and hopefully understood,” she said.

Strick said last year’s audience attendance ranged from 40-90 people. In total, the four dialogues in 2017 brought in 392 people.

Strick adds that based on the evaluation forms they have received back, people usually note something they learned, and they will also typically return to more dialogues.

“They’re talking about them with their friends. They’re bringing others. They’re sharing it on Facebook, so I think those are all pieces that the prevention task force would say, yeah, this is a success. This is something we want to continue,” Strick said.

For the next dialogue taking place on July 23, Heather Malone, chief probation officer, said the panel will include Chief of Police Chad Hacker, Adult Probation Officer Michele Maher, Superior Court Judge Jenny Newton, Community Corrections Director Leslie Rentschler and possibly Prosecuting Attorney Amy Richison.

The dialogue will take place in the Huntington City-Township public Library.