GROVE CITY, Pa. (WYTV) – More than 250 people, including concerned citizens, parents, medial professionals and local school and government officials, attended a community forum Wednesday at Grove City Middle School to discuss the ongoing drug issue in the community.
The forum, entitled “The Grove City Drug Epidemic: A Community Problem,” was organized by the Grove City Rotary Club in response to community meeting held earlier this month to discuss the issue.
Grove City Police Chief Dean Osborne said the number of reports of drug abuse has gone up over the past few years.
“We have seen an increase in drug-related incidents over the last year. From last year to this year, I would say they have doubled,” Osborne said.
Susan Boland, Director of George Junior Republic, an alternative school for boys, said it was a group decision to plan the gathering to address the problem.
“So many in our community have been impacted by the drug issue that is occurring in Grove City. So as Rotarians, key members of our group came forward and said we need to do something about this,” Boland said.
The forum was important to one father in particular. Jerry Bowser lost his daughter to a drug overdose nearly four years ago.
“It does not just show up and there it is. It is a progressive way of something just destroying a person’s soul,” Bowser said.
He said talking about the issue is key.
“Do anything we can at this point, to help get communication between the children and their parents at home,” Bowser said.
The forum’s agenda included:
- Grove City Area Middle School principal Larry Connelly and Grove City Area Senior High School assistant principal Brendan Smith, who talked about the school district’s response to the drug epidemic
- Police Chief Dean Osborne, who presented statistics on drug crimes and drug arrests
- Megan Johnson, program prevention specialist for the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, who talked about what to look for as parents, friends, teachers and neighbors.
- Grove City Medical Center Trauma Coordinator and registered nurse Cheryl Pebbles, who gave a perspective from the emergency room.
- Mercer County District Attorney Bob Kochems, who spoke about the prosecution of drug crimes and drug-related crimes, such as burglaries and thefts.
- Parents Jerry Bowser and Dick Beech, who gave personal accounts of their experiences with drug addiction.
Kochems talked about sentencing guidelines for drug possession versus drug trafficking, noting it costs $2,040 per month to house a drug offender at the jail versus $1,000 per month to get them treatment.
There also was a question and answer session.