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United Way hears from Ind. Recovery Alliance

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

The United Way of Miami County and the Indiana Recovery Alliance are looking to team up to hold an anti-stigma campaign, after leaders with both groups met Thursday afternoon.

Jess Cochran, a northern Indiana overdose prevention coordinator from Indiana Recovery Alliance, and Colleen Kennedy, a member of AmeriCorps, said there is a need for the campaign offering advice on how partnerships could benefit the county in the future.

Kennedy said the idea of the campaign stemmed from her involvement in gathering data on the opioid crisis in the community over the last several months.

“People feel that stigma is a huge barrier, not only to even speak about it but for people to come forward and get help,” Kennedy said. “It’s a dangerous problem, especially if they go to a medical hospital to get help and sometimes they’re brushed off as just seekers. So it does really have some huge implications.”

In addition to partnering with Cochran from the Indiana Recovery Alliance, Kennedy said they’re also partnering with Mental Health America to make the campaign happen.

Executive Director of United Way of Miami County Debi Wallick said Cochran has been able to give information on syringes and naloxone, which was important for them to work on the anti-stigma campaign.

She said the United Way hopes to continue partnering with her to work on public safety awareness.

The Indiana Recovery Alliance is the largest naloxone distributor in the state, Cochran said, and she hopes that along with the United Way, they can all put their heads together about how to address overdose rates in northern Indiana, especially in rural communities that might not have all of the resources needed.

“(We want to) try to get overdose numbers down and increase access to services for folks that are in active substance use, through educating medical providers or having conversations with people who are in active use about what they’d like to see from those services, so we can start to implement some of those changes,” Cochran said.

Since Cochran is not located in Peru, she said she needs feedback from everyone on what type of help Miami County might need to fight substance abuse.

“I have no idea what’s going to work in Miami County, I need that feedback from all of you if we’re going to be able to work together to bring a little bit of hope and community connection to folks who are struggling with substance abuse here and in other places,” Cochran said.

In other news, the United Way of Miami County took time to recognize three local groups for the agency of the year, company of the year and company employee of the year awards Thursday afternoon. All three groups were recognized for their contributions to the United Way of Miami County.

This year, Heidi Wright, Lindsey Davison and Tracy Martino accepted the award for the agency of the year on behalf of the Family Service Association, Domestic Violence Advocacy. Executive Director of United Way of Miami County Debi Wallick said they were given the award for their collaborating efforts to advocate and provide resources for domestic violence victims and developing hero stories.

Michael Kebrdle accepted the company of the year award on behalf of Grissom Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. Wallick said the award was for their one to one matching employee contribution to the United Way of Miami County.

Lastly, Joetta and Sean McGowan accepted the company employee of the year award on behalf of Progress Rail. Wallick said it was for volunteering and giving back their time and talento to make a difference in the lives of others in Miami County.

Wallick said United Way had given these awards in the past, but it used to only be the company of the year or individual of the year. She said they decided to add the employee of the year award, after seeing how much effort the employees of the local companies put into their work.

The next United Way of Miami County meeting is scheduled for May 9.