LOCAL NEWS

Facts week seeks to shatter drug, alcohol myths

The dangers of drugs and alcohol haven’t always been on Kaylyn Clayburn’s radar.

But with the final year of high school coming into view, Clayburn and her classmates are becoming more aware of the seriousness of alcohol and substance abuse.

“The older we are getting in school, it’s like the more we’re seeing how it’s affecting other kids,” said Clayburn, 16, a Southmont junior.

Experts are warning teens about the realities of addiction during National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, which runs through Friday.  

The initiative from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism links students with scientists and other experts to bust misconceptions about drugs from the media and friends.

“The myths are always out there about substances not being addictive,” said Karen Branch, executive director of the Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau, which is  promoting the effort through social media, programs and local high schools.

Alcohol and marijuana are the go-to drugs in middle and high school, experts say. High school seniors used the drugs at a higher rate than younger students, according to a 2016 survey from the Indiana Prevention Resource Center.

Both rates were lower than the national average, the survey found.

Among her peers, Clayburn said drugs seem to be a release from personal problems. 

“They feel like that’s there escape route and the only way they can get someone to listen,” she said.

That’s one of the myths the facts week seeks to shatter. Thursday, scientists will field questions from students about alcohol and drugs in a national online chat.

The institutes also offer a multiple-choice quiz on drug knowledge for teens and parents and sanction awareness events for schools and organizations across the nation.

“The observance continues to grow year after year, showing that teens are really responding to opportunities to learn about drugs and alcohol from non-judgmental, scientific sources,” Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the drug abuse institute, said in a statement. 

Southmont’s Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter is also promoting a drug-free lifestyle.

Clayburn and fellow member Randi Mayes, 17, a junior, are helping make posters with drug and alcohol facts to hang outside the school resource officer’s room. Members also carry booklets that detail the harmful effects of numerous drugs.

Mayes said she believes the myths persist because teens often don’t realize how easy it can be to become addicted.

“They want to do what’s popular, and it’s not always the right thing when it’s popular.”

South receives counseling grant

South Montgomery School Corporation has received funding to support retooling counseling programs.

The $30,000 planning grant from the Lilly Endowment will help the school district apply for additional funds to set the program changes into motion.

Counselors from New Market, Ladoga and Walnut and Southmont Jr. High were already working with the American Student Achievement Institute when the grant window opened. The goal is to help more students prepare for college or the workforce.

Superintendent Shawn Greiner said the school district was pleased to receive the funding.

“Additionally, our counselors at elementary, junior high and high school levels recognize a need to further guide students in understanding career opportunities and levels of education needed for specific career pathways,” he said in a statement.

The grant will pay for professional development, visits to outside career and technical education programs and partnerships with community stakeholders.

Southmont was one of 284 Indiana public school corporations and charter schools to receive  planning grants.

The corporation can now apply for a competitive implementation grant from the endowment. 

Awards will range from $100,000 to $3 million. Applications are due in May and the winning schools should be notified by September.

Gas tax part may pay for road funding

Road funding in Indiana could be increased in the near future, and state legislators are proposing motorists who use Indiana roadways pay more at the gas pumps. 

Indiana House Bill 1002 is authored by Republican Representative Edmond Soliday of Valparaiso, and co-authored by three representatives including Dr. Tim Brown of Crawfordsville. If the bill passes, not only will gas taxes be increased $.10 per gallon, but also vehicle registration fees will be increased and, someday, tolls to use interstate highways will implemented as part of a 20-year road funding plan.

The proposal seeks to raise an average of $1.2 billion in new, dedicated money each year for the next two decades to improve the state’s existing roads and bridges and provide additional funds to support local road projects. 

The proposed bill also will increase the state tax on diesel and other motor vehicle fuels by 10 cents per gallon, and all fuel taxes automatically would increase in future years based on inflation and Indiana personal income changes.

In addition, all revenue from the state’s 7 percent sales tax on gasoline, one-seventh of which currently is allocated for roads, would be used entirely for infrastructure starting in 2021. Locally, Crawfordsville and area towns would receive more funds annually for roads and bridges if the bill passes as written.

The Republican Caucus released a press release Friday which stated that finding a long-term solution to road funding is essential for the future of Indiana.

“The General Assembly will be tackling road infrastructure funding this session as a long-term road funding plan,” the press release indicated. “Over the next 20 years, Indiana will need an additional $1.2 billion on average every year to adequately fund our transportation infrastructure system. Addressing this shortfall in a sustainable manner is imperative if we want to maintain our status as the Crossroads of America. House Bill 1002 begins the conversation on how to best fund our immediate and future infrastructure needs, without saddling future generations with mountains of debt.” 

Brown has been highly involved with the proposed bill. In fact, he said Soliday and representatives from INDOT have worked on the proposed bill for the past five years. Brown said an important part of the bill is that it gives the state a path to the future.

“The bill is about creating a dedicated source to acquire, plan, construct and preserve the roads,” Brown said. “In the past we have been doing this year-to-year, now we can plan for the future of our roads.”

For the past several years, local government officials have complained road funding has decreased while expenses have increased. Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton said additional funds would be welcome as he continues to work to improve his city, which includes infrastructure.

If the bill passes in the current legislative session in Indianapolis, motorists can expect to see the tax increase at the pumps by mid-summer.

Volunteers sought for guardian program

Marie Stocks wants to be the voice for an adult who is no longer able to speak for themselves.

The Crawfordsville resident and other volunteers in the newly-launched Montgomery Adult Guardianship Services program will soon have the power to make decisions for disabled adults whose families cannot act on their loved one’s behalf.

“It could be a full-time job just taking care of one person for a while, just depending on their needs,” Stocks said. 

The program recruits, trains and supports people to serve as limited guardians in Montgomery Superior Court I. It’s funded by a grant from Wabash Center, a Lafayette-based nonprofit that serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Advocates may make health care, social service and legal-related decisions for their clients as allowed by the court.

MAGS is open at no cost to clients over the age of 18 who a physician has declared incapacitated or incapable of managing their personal affairs.

“Those needing guardians are among some of the most vulnerable persons in our community,” said Wabash Center president Jason McManus.

The local justice system has seen a need for adult guardians in recent years. Superior Court I Judge Heather Barajas, who will appoint the advocates, said she’s tracked an uptick in cases that belong in the mental health system.

Along with probate and guardianship cases, the court also handles some felonies.

Taxpayers often end up paying for public defenders, competency hearings and hospital stays for some defendants because there’s no one else to provide them services.

“If really what they need is mental health training, or mental health referral, then we’re spending money in the criminal court system that doesn’t need to be spent,” Barajas said.

The program appears to be a success in Tippecanoe County, where 20 volunteers serve 23 clients.

Some of the calls program coordinator Richard Richardson takes are from northern Montgomery County residents seeking help.

“I always have more people needing guardianships, from calls I get, than I have volunteers,” he said.

There are 12 programs serving 350 clients statewide. A division of the Indiana Supreme Court awards grants for the programs, and local governments are required to pitch in a 50 percent funding match.

Five volunteers are needed for the program. Local coordinator Sharon White said she’s recruited two so far.

Advocates must be at least 21 years old and have no criminal history, social services history of violence or a reckless driving record. They are required to commit to at least a year of service.

Volunteers must undergo criminal history and background checks, personal interviews and 30 hours of training. The training session is scheduled to begin in mid-February.

For more information about the program or to volunteer, call White at 765-596-1396 or 765-423-5531 ext. 423.

Party heads react to Trump

Local political leaders are sounding off as Donald Trump moves in to the Oval Office.

Trump is set to be sworn in as president in a noontime ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. As many as 900,000 people are expected to crowd the National Mall for the event.

The billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star takes office with historically low approval ratings and lingering questions about his cabinet nominees, business interests and relations with the media.

Montgomery County GOP chair Suanne Milligan has her sights on the looming decision for the U.S. Supreme Court. There has been a vacancy since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.

President Barack Obama nominated an appellate court judge to replace Scalia, but congressional Republicans refused to hold hearings until after the presidential election. During the campaign, Trump released a shortlist of potential picks, but no timetable has been announced for a nomination.

Milligan said she hoped the replacement for Scalia and any other justices would be as “brilliant” as Scalia, who was one of the court’s most conservative voices.

“And other than that, I think we’ll just have to wait and see how he proceeds,” she said.

Trump takes office as the most unpopular incoming president in recent history, a recent Gallup poll shows.

Just 44 percent of Americans said they agreed with his handling of the transition. The poll was taken two weeks before Inauguration Day.

Approval of Barack Obama’s transition nearly doubled Trump’s. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both enjoyed more than 60 percent approval heading in to the White House.

Among Republicans surveyed, Trump’s favorability was much higher, the survey found. Eighty-seven percent said they approved of his handling of the transition.

Democrats  gave Trump a 13 percent approval rating, while more than 30 percent of independents approved.

County Democratic chair David Hadley said he was concerned about what he saw as Trump’s failure to shift from campaigning to governing.

He cited the incoming president’s use of Twitter to feud with political opponents.

“I have seen little indication that he is going to be able to grow in to the job, and see little indication that he’s able to put the national interest above his own interest and self-promotion,” Hadley said.

The Trump era dawns as the nation still deals with the divisiveness from the campaign season. At least a third of the U.S. House’s Democratic caucus plans to boycott the inauguration, in part over concerns about Russian influence in the election.

Hadley said Trump could help heal the divisions by not jumping at every opportunity to attack his critics.

“I think he has to make a decision as to whether... this is about the United States or about him,” he said. “And so far it’s been all about him.”

Milligan said Trump sets himself apart on messaging.

“He seems to be a person that is going to have a different style,” she said.

Both chairpersons may not see Trump take office as it happens. Hadley said he was torn about tuning in. Milligan does not own a television, but plans to read about the inauguration in the newspaper.

“It will be an exciting day,” Milligan said. “Our hallmark of democracy is the peaceful transition of power, and that’s what I want to see happen.”