Newark Advocate: Community advises more coping skills needed to combat addiction

NEWARK - Stephen Hunt's addiction crept up on him. 

It started as going to bars with friends and spiraled into using crack cocaine, said Hunt, a life-long resident of Newark.

"You're trying to enjoy life and you thought you had found the enjoyment in using a substance that would energize you," he said. "I didn't know about the facts of what addiction looked like until after the pain, until after the years of doing it and realizing something was wrong and I needed help.

"I was trapped. I was trapped by something that had a hold of me and I didn't know how to get out. It sneaks up on you."

Hunt was one of about 120 people to attend a community roundtable about addiction Tuesday night at Thirty One West in Newark. Participants talked about causes of the addiction crisis and possible solutions.

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Newark Advocate- United Way's Hope Award winner: From homeless to helping others

GRANVILLE – The United Way of Licking County, and its award winners, celebrated reaching some lofty goals, but vowed not to rest on those achievements, at Thursday's annual meeting and recognition breakfast at Denison University.

Christopher Wills, winner of the Hope Award, struggled with addiction and homelessness two years ago, but has turned his life around to become a dedicated father, student, employee and volunteer at St. Vincent Haven, Newark Think Tank on Poverty and the Licking County Re-Entry Coalition.

"On each point in my life, I didn't realize how many people cared, and now I have this family (of supporters)," Wills said.

Now, he wants others to know: "There is hope. There are voices out there fighting for them."

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Newark Advocate- Addiction Town Hall: We're coming together to solve a problem.

Opioid and amphetamine addiction continues to ravage Licking County. Yet current treatment resources can only help about 30-40 percent of the afflicted population, according to experts at The Newark Think Tank on Poverty.

Without sustained change, they believe overdose deaths and drug-related crimes will only continued to rise.

The Newark Think Tank on Poverty and Newark City Schools, however, are taking steps to counter this public health crisis.

On June 7th, mental health experts, local law enforcement, and individuals impacted by addiction will come together for an Addiction and Recovery Town Hall Meeting at Newark City Schools. Doug Ute, superintendent of Newark City School, noted that the school system is "happy to do anything we can to bring the community together on this issue."

Talks will focus on spreading awareness on available recovery resources and bringing attention to the still unmet needs of those struggling to return to sobriety.

"We can't arrest our way out of this crisis," said Allen Schwartz, a founding member of the Newark Think Tank on Poverty. "It will take the community."

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Y-City News: New think tank looks to fight poverty in Muskingum County

When Melissa Rice walked into a room full of middle-class, college-educated professionals for a meeting meant to discuss the poverty related issues in Muskingum County, the single mom who works a part-time, minimum wage job didn’t think anyone there could understand the struggles she goes through on a daily basis.

Rice was one of a handful of locals living in poverty invited to take part in the inaugural session of the Zanesville Think Tank on Poverty (ZTTP).

The think tank derives from the Newark Think Tank on Poverty (NTTP) and consists of representatives from several charitable organizations throughout Muskingum county, such as Christ’s Table, South East Area Transit (SEAT), and Forever Dads, as well as experts on poverty who have lived through the many problems ZTTP aims to address.

Like NTTP, Zanesville’s think tank values the input from all socioeconomic backgrounds, but the opinions of those who come from the working and poor class are especially dominant.

With expertise coming from various backgrounds related to poverty, the group hopes to get to the bottom of the problems brought to the table and find real, attainable solutions that can make a long-term change for those facing hard times.

 

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The Advocate: Experts agree - County needs affordable, transitional housing

NEWARK – More than a decade ago, a homeless man nearly froze to death sleeping outside the Licking County Administration Building in sub-zero temperatures.

Since then, the Salvation Army expanded its shelter, St. Vincent Haven opened a men's shelter, The Main Place opened The Place Next Door, and St. Vincent de Paul opened The Gardens on Sixth.

Despite the additions of various types of housing, local officials say a need remains for more affordable, transitional housing in the area.

The needs include those in poverty, recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, suffering from a mental illness, victims of domestic violence, and recently released from prison.

Dennis, who spent 60 days at the Salvation Army shelter, said he is homeless while he awaits news from the Licking County Coalition for Housing. He said he just got out of prison, and has no family, no job and no money. And, he wants to avoid some shelters.

"I prefer not to be around a bunch of addicts and thieves," said Dennis, who did not want to disclose his full name. "Hopefully, an apartment will come through real quick."

Deb Tegtmeyer, executive director of the Licking County Coalition for Housing, said the annual January count of homeless in the community showed 190 here.

“Is it absolutely accurate?" Tegtmeyer said. "Of course not, but it’s the best we can do. It’s probably twice that, and it depends on how you define homeless."

Tegtmeyer was one of nine featured speakers at a recent United Way of Licking County Community Partners Council meeting on housing at the Licking County Aging Program.

"Our challenge, of course, is there's just not enough (housing), and at prices that are affordable for a lot of people," Tegtmeyer said. "Housing costs have been skyrocketing over the last several years, and wages have not been keeping up. That's true across Ohio and the United States."

The housing coalition operates more than 40 units of transitional housing for homeless families and individuals.

Ellanor Shanklin, a recovering addict, attended the Community Partners Council meeting, and addressed the panel of speakers.

"We need an emergency safe haven house for those in addiction," Shanklin said. "That's been my dream. A recovery atmosphere where anybody can come. I had a home to go to, but it would be nice to have a recovery home.

"Just a one-day reprieve where they wouldn't have to go back to the dope house. A shower and hope. Most addicts don't want to be in addiction, but they're stuck."

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The Advocate: Group thinks Newark vision plan didn't account for whole city

NEWARK - Newark stakeholders have worked to create a 10-year vision plan for the city, but some people feel the general public was not included in enough of the process.

Lesha Farias, from the Newark Think Tank on poverty, is concerned only a small group of business owners, city officials, and other major stakeholders made the plan.

"It's not the community's plan," she said. "It's the people that they wanted to make the plan making the plan."

At a meeting Thursday at the Newark Development Partners' office on Union Street, Aaron Domini from the Columbus community planning firm OHM Advisors, explained the results of the plan, which was commissioned by NDP and paid for by private contributors. Farias and a handful of other people from the think tank attended the meeting Thursday to voice their concerns.

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Columbus Dispatch: Luncheon spreads message that not all offenders fit in same basket

“It is an unfortunate fact about my life, but nonetheless, I did commit a violent act,” White said.

Standing in the Statehouse Atrium Tuesday afternoon, she was one of five speakers — either victims of crime or formerly incarcerated Ohioans — who spoke at the R3 Legislative Luncheon. The three Rs stand for rehabilitation, restoration and redemption.

Re-entry and criminal justice reform were a common thread among the speakers, and discussion focused on the Modify Criminal Sentencing and Corrections Law, Sierah’s Law and the Reagan Tokes Act.

The sentencing and corrections law is generally aimed at moving low-level, nonviolent offenders out of prison, or preventing them from going there in the first place. Sierah’s Law would make the attorney general establish and maintain a state registry of violent offenders by Dec. 31. The Reagan Tokes Act focuses on the sentencing of violent offenders, electronic monitoring and re-entry standards for inmates.

Tracy Van Sickle argues all felony crimes shouldn’t be lumped together, because each circumstance surrounding the crime is different.

“While looking at these bills today before us and with much empathy for the victims of crime, their families and their friends, there are many unintended consequences regarding these bills as they stand,” said Sickle, who spent 12 years in prison.

Eddie Slade, a restored violent offender, said the prison system needs to be revisited and fixed.

“If you want to repair a car, you can’t take it to a doctor. You gotta take it to a mechanic so if you want to help somebody become rehabilitated, reintegrated, you got to get restored citizens involved in the process,” Slade said of ex-offenders.

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Between Coasts: Second Chances in the Rust Belt

NEWARK - Dana Cashdollar had been in line since early in the morning. Short, with red hair and a mustache, Dana walked at the very back. He watched as the column of inmates shuffled along, down hallways, and through gates he’d never seen before, even after several years of being locked up at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio.

He was being led toward a room—a last checkpoint before a waiting area with a door that opened on a half-full parking lot, a crisp breeze, and an open sky.

As he passed, a guard called out, “You ever come back, Cashdollar, I’ll give you a kidney shot.” Dana gave him permission to do that and a whole lot worse.

His daughter, his brother, and his mom were waiting for him in the lobby, ready to drive him home to Licking County. “My family was so excited for me that I almost forgot to be excited myself,” Dana remembers.

In Ohio, thousands of men and women are released from prison every year. According to the recent Licking County Reentry Summit, over 24,000 will return to their communities in 2017. In Licking County, where Dana lives, around a quarter of those released will probably be reincarcerated again within three years.

On his first day free, Dana had to adjust quickly. His brother handed him a new phone with a touch-screen—quite different than the flip phone he’d had in 2007. He also had to get used to not having cuffs on his wrists while traveling on the highway.

And he had to reorganize his life, beginning with documentation. To re-enter society–getting a job, opening a bank account, even going to a doctor–Cashdollar would need a social security card, birth certificate, and state ID, none of which he had.

Dana Cashdollar had to start over.

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Catholic News Service: Ohio think tank gives people a much-needed voice in overcoming poverty

NEWARK, Ohio -- For Cooper, family isn't just those who share their last name.

When it comes to helping people in need, the couple often sets an extra plate at the dinner table for someone without food, offers a night's rest to someone without a bed or readily provides a lift to the doctor's office for a neighbor whose car broke down.

"We share a community. We share a town," Chuck told Catholic News Service in late December.

Life became more of a struggle though for the Coopers as 2017 dawned.

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Truthout: Fighting for Seats at the Table: A Poor People's Movement in a Rustbelt Town

After years in and out of jail, Chris Wills says his work as an organizer with the Newark Think Tank on Poverty gives me a reason not to go back. (Photo: Jack Shuler)

(Photo: Jack Shuler)

When Chris Wills got out of prison, he could not find a job. He applied, but no one would hire him because of his record.

And then he started using drugs again.

In a moment of desperation, he went to talk with a friend who ran programs in the local jail. His friend didn't tell him to just get clean. He didn't tell him to just get a job. He gave him some advice that, in the moment, Wills thought was just weird. His friend told him to go meet with some community organizers from a group called the Newark Think Tank on Poverty.

The Think Tank is an organization started in 2014 that is modelling a new approach for addressing poverty. Based in Newark, Ohio, the town where Wills lives, the group is made up of people currently struggling with poverty, or who have struggled in the past. The group's goal is to have their voices heard by people who make decisions.

Wills told me in a recent interview that he has three families now. His piercing blue eyes lit up as he named them: "My friends in recovery, my church, and the Think Tank."

After years in and out of jail, Chris Wills says his work as an organizer with the Newark Think Tank on Poverty "gives me a reason not to go back." (Photo: Jack Shuler)As the Republicans gathered in Cleveland to discuss supporting that guy who wants to build a wall, Wills woke up every morning at the men's shelter where he lives, two-and-a-half hours away in Newark. He went to work, focused on recovery and built his new life. He was also organizing for change in this Rust Belt town.

This is no small task.

Newark, population 48,000 plus, is a red city in a red county. It's about 45 minutes from Columbus and on the outskirts of Appalachian Ohio. One of its claims to fame is an enormous building in the shape of a basket, just off Highway 16. Since 1997, the basket has served as an office space for the Longaberger basket-making company. Layoffs have led the company to move staff out of the building to another site. About a week ago, the last remaining employees left.

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