ASAP offers community update

Carl Lienhoop, Mayor Jim Lienhoop, CRH CEO Jim Bickel and Jeff Jones; WRB staff photo

Nearly three years of work to establish drug recovery efforts in Columbus and Bartholomew County are coming to fruition. The Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress provided an update to the community Monday evening at The Commons.

In 2016, representatives of the city of Columbus, Bartholomew County and Columbus Regional Health created ASAP as a collaborative effort to develop a community-wide response to the opioid epidemic. ASAP started a three-pronged approach to the abuse problem, assessing local prevention, criminal justice and recovery responses to the epidemic and making recommendations on areas for improvements. That has led to more than 40 projects and changes like the creation of a drug court, the recruitment of treatment options to the community and funding through income taxes of many of those efforts.

A Substance Abuse Advisory and Accountability Committee, made up of representatives from all three groups, assess funding requests and make recommendations to the Substance Abuse Public Funding Board. If the funding board recommends action, it will kick the request to the Columbus City Council and Bartholomew County Council for funding approval. Each government body must agree on any funding.

In recent months, the alliance has transitioned to a new role as a not-for-profit group operating the ASAP Hub Recovery Resource Center, which is now open at the Doug Otto United Way Center on 13th Street. The Hub is meant as a central location to get someone into treatment. Organizers say the idea is that when someone with a substance use disorder asks for help, they need services right away. The Hub is expected to be fully operational by April of 2020.

Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Kelly Benjamin addressed the gathering. She talked about the Drug Recovery Court, a voluntary program designed to provide motivation and skills to high-risk, non-violent offenders. The program currently has a maximum cap of 30 participants with the average time taken to complete the program being 18 to 24 months.

Jeff Jones, former volunteer executive director of ASAP, says that much work has been done, by much more remains. He received a standing ovation from the crowd for his efforts in helping to combat the opioid epidemic. Jones was also honored by Mayor Jim Lienhoop, County Commissioner Carl Lienhoop and Jim Bickell, CEO of Columbus Regional Health at the end of the program.

The trio unveiled the “Jeff Jones Fund.” Lienhoop explained that friends, coworkers and other supporters of Jones contributed to this fund, which is designated to help ASAP cover certain expenses. That fund totals $63,763.17.

Jones is re-entering retirement and has been succeeded by new executive director, Doug Leonard.

You can get more information on ASAP and their community report at