Project Lazarus-Surry will hold its first meeting of 2013 Thursday in Mount Airy, with a main item of discussion to involve finding a new coordinator for the community coalition battling the prescription drug problem.
Donna Parks served in the coordinator’s capacity from October 2011 until about a month ago, when she took a new position in Watauga County. Heading the drug task force was a part-time proposition for Parks, whose main occupation was as a health educator with Surry County Health and Nutrition Center.
Her new job in Watauga also is in a health-promotion capacity.
Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson, who spearheaded the formation of the Project Lazarus-Surry task force in 2011 in response to a growing problem with prescription drug abuse and misuse, said the need to replace Parks is critical.
“That will have to be filled soon,” Watson said of the coordinator vacancy coalition members will address Thursday at a meeting that the public also is strongly urged to attend. It will be held in the new media center at Mount Airy High School on North South Street.
Two sessions will be involved, a steering committee meeting beginning at 5 p.m. and a general coalition meeting at 5:30.
“Everyone is welcome to attend either or both meetings,” emphasized Capt. Alan Freeman of the city police department, who also has played a leadership role with the group that meets periodically around the county. It consists of law enforcement, educational, medical, pharmaceutical, church, counseling and other representatives.
“Please remember to invite your family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.,” Freeman added.
Chief Watson said the coordinator’s role is critical to the continued success of a coalition effort that helped Surry enjoy a decrease in overdose deaths by nearly 50 percent between 2011 and 2012.
“That position is just crucial to the planning and organization of Project Lazarus,” he said. “So it is a setback,” he added of Park’s departure.
“There are funds allocated for that position,” Watson said.
The part-time coordinator job is financed by both Surry Health and Nutrition Center and the coalition, which has received grant funding to support its activities. However, this is not a job someone should be in for the money, the police chief said.
“It takes a special individual to fill that role,” he explained. “That individual has to have a genuine concern.”
Until a new coordinator is appointed, the coalition activities will be handled through the police department.
Fred Brason, who has led a highly successful Project Lazarus program in Wilkes County, is expected to be on hand Thursday to offer guidance on the replacement.
Watson said that gathering also will be a time for the group to outline activities and progress made during 2012 and identify goals for 2013.
The main objective this year is a continuation of a key thrust of the task force’s activities so far:
“I just think we can never stress enough the importance of community education, regardless of the sector or age group,” Watson said of building awareness about prescription drug dangers.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.