Addressing Substance Abuse in Arkansas

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- Substance abuse is a problem in Region 8, and all of Arkansas.  On Wednesday Arkansas' "Drug Czar" was in Jonesboro talking about the importance of educating the public.

"Part of us just do not want to face the fact that we have a problem.  We think it will go away if we don't face it," said Arkansas Drug Director Fran Flener.

One problem we do have in Arkansas is there's not enough state funding to properly educate the public about drug dangers.

"Our drug task force money has been reduced at the federal level by 67% and when you have that kind of reduction, our small rural police departments have no way of funding someone who solely takes care of drugs," said Flener.

Last year there were about 260,000 people who needed a substance abuse program, but because of a lack of funding only 5% got the help they need.

A couple of months ago Jonesboro attorney Skip Mooney, Jr. founded a group called "Out of the Dark".  It's made up of people who are tired of what's happening in our community.

"In order to try to resolve some problems we have to address them, learn to understand what they are, and talk about them," said Mooney.

Flener said its programs like "Out of the Dark" that do make a difference.

"With the amount of energy that group entails they will make a tremendous difference," said Flener.

Experts say kids learn what they know about drugs from friends and popular culture when they really need to be learning those things from the community and their families.

"There's nobody really grabbing them and saying, 'Wait a second, you need to see the other side of this'," said Mooney.

The best thing you can do is keep your eyes and ears open.  You should know the signs to look for in your family, friends, and neighbors and then address them.

"Out of the Dark" has about 200 community volunteers.