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Annual Red Ribbon Week observance set

RED RIBBON WALK — The Jefferson County Drug Court will be holding the 2nd annual Red Ribbon Week Community Walk at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Jim Woods Park. Participating in the planning are, from left, Kevin Schrader, drug court officer; Laura Tifonoff, drug court coordinator; Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller, who oversees the drug court; Allison Yanssens, drug court liaison; and Kurt Kelley, adult probation officer. -- Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County Drug Court will hold its second-annual Red Ribbon Week Community Walk at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Jim Woods Park to raise awareness of the destruction caused by drug addiction.

The community is invited to attend the walk to recognize the importance of remaining drug-free, said Kevin Schrader, drug court officer.

Red Ribbon Week runs Wednesday through Oct. 31. The National Family Partnership has sponsored the Red Ribbon observance since 1988.

Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller began a drug court program when she took the bench in 2015. The drug court was certified by the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Specialized Dockets for a two-year period in 2017. It was recently recertified for another two-year period, Miller said.

Miller said the community should come out and participate in the walk on Saturday because drug abuse and addiction affects everyone in the community, not just family and friends.

“We need a multifaceted approach to the drug problem, given the devastating effect on the entire community,” she said.

The Red Ribbon Week Community Walk raises awareness of the drug problem, as well as educating youth about the dangers of drug use, Schrader said.

Schrader said information booths will be set up at the park on Saturday, showing services provided by various organizations and groups. There will be drawings, a memory board and activities for kids. Parents can also sign a drug-free pledge to help children grow up safe and healthy.

Miller said the drug court has accepted 50 participants since its inception. She said the program provides mechanisms for treatment, with the ultimate goal of returning the participant to the community as a healthy, productive citizen.

Miller explained there are four steps in the drug court: Weekly meetings focusing on recovery and identifying issues preventing a long-term healthy life; obtaining a job, while continuing to focus on recovery; looking to the future in balancing work, family life and living in the community; and preparing for a productive life and sobriety outside the structure and constraints of the drug court.

All participants are required to find employment.

Participants are exposed to experts who provide life skills, focusing on how to be a positive impact on their children, while at the same time recovering from their addiction, Miller said. Participants learn that once they get clean, they can be an important part of a child’s life, doing things like taking them to school, making meals and helping with homework.

The judge said people are often critical of struggling addicts. Some say it is a choice, but Miller said it is not that simple.

She said Saturday’s event will help the community better understand the issues surrounding drug addiction and be empowered to deal with the problem as a community.

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