"Never look down on anybody unless you're helping them up." Jesse Jackson
Although one of the main purposes of Thursday night's HOPE (Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education) meeting was to educate Fulton area residents on the dangers and signs of heroin, which local officials say is a growing problem in the community and surrounding area, the event had another message as well.
According to several of the evening's guest speakers, prevention and treatment are just as important in the battle against drugs as law enforcement, and compassion from the community is a key part of both of those tools.
"I have a message of hope," Linda Frost, with Preferred Family Healthcare told the crowd gathered in Fulton City Hall Thursday night as she spoke about prevention. "Heroin and other kinds of drug use can be prevented, treatment is effective and there is hope for recovery."
Frost pointed out that drug use is not limited to any one demographic, but is "everywhere."
"It's not in "that neighborhood' or on "that side of town,' so it's really important we all work together to solve the problem," she said.
Noting that many overdoses involve individuals in their early 20s, Frost shared some of the common reasons young people get involved with drugs, including natural adolescent impulses to pull away from their parents' influence and assert their independence, and to fit in with their peers.
"We need to find ways for them to fit in, for them to be independent in healthy, positive ways," she said. "We all need to watch our kids. We still need to know where our teenagers are, and what they are doing. We need to become educated so we can talk intelligently about drugs.
"Communicate clearly and often your feelings about drugs and alcohol."
Although she noted it is not a guarantee to prevent youth from experimenting with drugs, Frost said that young people whose families sit down to dinner and engage in positive communication with their parents at least five times a week are three times less likely to do drugs.