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Heazlitt hired to lead assault on meth

A new planning agency in Harrison County has declared war on methamphetamine ‘ make that ‘all-out war on meth’ ‘ said the 4Community Impact Planning Partners’ new drug czar.
Debbie Heazlitt, 57, Corydon, has been selected by the 4community group to study the growing methamphetamine problem in Harrison County. She will have three months to conclude the research, identify participant agencies, and provide recommendations on how best to combat this epidemic.
Heazlitt, a native of New Albany, was formerly the director of the Gerdon Youth Center and administrator of the Gerdon Alternative School in Corydon.
She has a long list of work experience and professional qualifications, including a 1969 bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hanover College and a 1995 master’s in education, mental health counseling from Indiana University. She is a licensed mental health counselor and is certified by the state of Indiana as a rehabilitation counselor and prevention professional. She is also a nationally certified counselor. She was valedictorian of the New Albany High School Class of 1965.
She is a member and president or past president of the Harrison County Step Ahead Council, the Harrison County Substance Abuse and Prevention Council, and the Prevent Child Abuse Harrison County. She serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity Harrison County, the Metro United Way Community Solutions Committee and Advisory Board, the Court Appointed Special Advocate, and the Retired Senior Volunteer programs.
During her career, Heazlitt has served as a medical/vocational field manager, directed the New Albany Housing Authority, counseled youth at the Brandon House Counseling Center, and supervised job opportunities for persons with disabilities at the Rauch Rehabilitation and Developmental Services, which received state recognition as a model for other communities. She was elected to the New Albany City Council in 1984 and served as president and vice president.
The 4community coalition ‘ made up of leaders from Blue River Services, Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, Harrison County Community Foundation, Office of Family and Children, and United Way of Harrison County ‘ has been meeting for the past two months to address the issue of meth use.
‘Every time we met, we learned more about this heart-breaking addiction,’ said United Way’s Barbara Bridgewater. ‘We quickly realized we needed someone to compile the information and sift through all the materials provided by other communities who are confronting the problem.’
‘Our group agreed unanimously that Debbie was the stand-out choice,’ added Laura Dean, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. ‘She has a proven track record of getting the job done, and her knowledge of the key players in Harrison County will be critical in forming the necessary partnerships.’
‘It’s a natural extension of what I’ve been committed to all my life,’ Heazlitt said, adding that she, like others in the community, is just beginning to understand the far-reaching, devastating effects of methamphetamine. ‘This is going to be an ongoing learning experience for me as well as the community,’ she said.
Harrison County has already had five meth-related deaths this year. Two dozen children have been removed from homes in the past few months where the drug was being made and/or used. Meth arrests are an increasing burden on the police, courts and jail, the coalition said. Meth labs are dangerous in operation and leave behind toxic residue that trained specialists must clean up. Taxpayer and human costs are skyrocketing (see story below).
The coalition’s goal is to bring the community together ‘ families, neighbors, school personnel, students, law enforcement, agencies, churches and town leaders ‘ to develop a ‘county mindset of zero tolerance for methamphetamine use,’ Heazlitt said. ‘Methamphetamine use is a robber of youth and health.’
‘While we hope to take steps to drastically reduce meth use in Harrison County, we will also be examining ways to help the addicts with recovery and lessen the trauma of an arrest for the family,’ said Steve Gilliland, executive director of Harrison County Community Foundation.
‘Sometimes these homes are so toxic the children have to leave without their clothing or even a favorite toy. Perhaps we can find an agency to create emergency care packages for these kids.’
First, the plan is to define the resources and services that are already provided and to provide more training to affected retailers, teachers, health care professionals, day care providers and the community at large, Heazlitt said.
The goal is to implement the plan this fall and continue working on the problem at least through 2007.
Heazlitt’s office will be at Harrison County Community Services. The office will be open from 8 a.m. until noon weekdays. The number to call is 734-0385.
The 4community Impact project is being funded in part by The Lilly Endowment through the Indiana Association of United Ways. Local matching funds of $7,000 was provided by the five Planning Partners to secure the $35,000 planning grant. If the Harrison County proposal is accepted, an additional $48,000 in matching funds can be leveraged to implement the project.