GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery gathered for their regular meeting in the Holzer Medical Center French 500 Room where anti-violence effort advocate AJ Stack asked the coalition to consider joining forces with local efforts to promote anti-violence efforts, Monday.
“Several months ago after (the Parkland Shooting), community members started gathering to talk about the status of violence in our society,” said Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church Priest-in-charge AJ Stack. “Very quickly those meetings evolved and we started going out to the local high schools and had conversations with high school students about what they were worried about and what their fears and concerns were for the state of the world that they will be inheriting. It quickly became apparent, the students we spoke with are desperate for help in learning how to navigate their lives, desperate for equal and open access to mental health services and peer support and mentoring of adults who care to see them become productive members of society.”
Stack said he came before the coalition at the suggestion of the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Assistant Director Angela Stowers.
“The work that they have laid before our group, the work the students are wanting to co-author with the adults, falls very much in line or beside the mission of CPR,” said Stack.
Previous discussions with the initiative found many overlapping concerns with issues like bullying, abuse, isolation and other factors which were often connected with drug abuse.
Volunteers speaking with area high schools intended to hold an event in Gallipolis City Park on April 20. The event was postponed for some time in the summer due to logistical concerns and for what event supporters have called misconceptions about what the event was intending to address. Stack stressed the event had, and never had been, about gun control issues. Members of the anti-violence initiative were focused on mental health concerns, promoting positive relationships as well as providing an outlet for youth leadership and voices within the community.
“This group has not talked about guns, ever,” said Stack. “And the students do not want to talk about guns. They wanted to talk about feeling safe in their community and learning how to be productive members of society in a culture where people are not shepherded in that way. “
Stack said it was important, he felt, to help teens understand how to have difficult conversations about things like suicide and abuse. He said some of the students he spoke with had never had a conversation about such things.
“I come to you to ask that CPR consider working with our group or allowing us to be associated with you in this endeavor,” said Stack.
“To add to that…I feel like this group has a fantastic opportunity to serve in that umbrella of prevention in our county,” said Stowers. “Prevention is prevention. If we’re preventing violence, we’re probably preventing substance abuse. If we’re preventing substance abuse, we’re probably preventing violence. I feel it’s a great opportunity to keep all of those efforts related to prevention under one umbrella and we have a number of committees working on that.”
Stowers said she was able to sit in on a previous discussion at the Bossard Memorial Library among student leaders and hear them mention the possibility of the CPR group helping with the effort and said it was “heartening” to hear.
CPR would eventually vote to support the effort. A community event is still intended to be held but upcoming meetings and events will be announced as they are decided.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.