Vincent unites to combat drug abuse

Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force Commander Lt. Clay Hammac speaks during an Aug. 4 community meeting at Coosa Valley Baptist Church in Vincent. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force Commander Lt. Clay Hammac speaks during an Aug. 4 community meeting at Coosa Valley Baptist Church in Vincent. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

VINCENT – Shelby County likely will see an increase in its number of overdose deaths this year compared to 2015, as the use of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine continue to rise, the county’s deputy coroner told a group gathered at Vincent’s Coosa Valley Baptist Church on Aug. 4.

About 100 people gathered at the church for a “United for Safe Communities” event sponsored by Compact 2020, the cities of Harpersville and Vincent, Bradford Health Services, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition, local churches and the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force.

During the meeting, Shelby County Chief Deputy Coroner Lina Evans said Shelby County saw 29 confirmed drug overdose deaths in 2015, seven of which were tied to heroin. She said about 50 deaths were officially reported as natural causes, but likely had drugs as a contributing factor.

“This year, we’ve had 11 confirmed overdose deaths, and we’ve got 13 pending that I’m pretty sure are going to come back as overdoses,” Evans said. “That’s 24, which is almost beating last year’s number, and we’re just through July.

“I don’t want to come out here and have to knock on your door in the middle of the night,” Evans added. “I don’t want to come out here for that.”

The meeting focused on keeping the community informed on current drug trends and sharing information to combat drug abuse, particularly among teens.

Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee urged parents to hold other parents accountable, and encouraged community leaders to take a unified stand against substance abuse.

“We want people who are going to have an impact in the community to help keep our kids off drugs,” Lee said. “It’s way easier to turn a blind eye to it than it is to take a stance and do something about it. The best prevention is not starting drugs in the first place.”

Birmingham sports reporter Lauren Sisler, DAY Program counselor Zina Cartwell, Bradford Health Services representative Lonnie Layton and Drug Enforcement Task Force Commander Lt. Clay Hammac also spoke during the event.

Hammac said youth are increasingly likely to try marijuana, which he said often leads to other drugs, because they are “bombarded with a culture that says marijuana is not that bad.”

Hammac also said prescription pill abuse is rampant, and said “we’ve never seen anything like it.”

“A lot of the kids who become involved in dealing drugs, they’ve heard their whole lives that is all they could ever be, all they could ever do,” Hammac said. “We need to go back out into the streets and not only encourage our kids, but empower them to make better choices.”