WINNSBORO – September is National Recovery Month and on Monday night, members of Fairfield County Council got an overview of what Fairfield Behavioral Health Services actually does for the community.
Vernon Kennedy, speaking before council, briefed the panel on FBHS, telling them that it’s been around since 1979 and is designated as the sole authority for substance abuse services in Fairfield County.
“We are dedicated to providing quality, accessible and affordable alcohol and other drug abuse services in Fairfield County,” he said. “Our services are confidential which is very important to a lot of people in our communities.”
Kennedy said they have four goals: to delay the onset of youth drug use and promote healthy and safe living through prevention activities; to improve emotional behavior and social functioning; to reduce substance use and create sobriety and sustained recovery that produces better outcomes; and to prevent or reduce the frequency and severity of recurrence.
Fairfield Behavioral Health Services offers individual, family and group counseling and holds an annual walk in April. Recently, they received a grant that will allow them to start a Level 2 program, which is an intensive outpatient program primarily for women. Men can also qualify for the program, he said.
But Kennedy wanted to draw particular attention to September.
“September is National Recovery Month and during this month we often try to bring more awareness to not only substance abuse issues but helping people to really understand mental health as well as substance abuse issues and to help celebrate people who are living in recovery,” he said. “We have a lot of people across Fairfield County and the United States who often don’t get to tell their stories, or don’t want to tell their stories. This month we are hoping to spread the message that prevention does work, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.”
The theme is Visible, Vocal and Valuable. They kicked the month off with a recovery walk on Sept. 1 at the Fairfield Central High School track.
“It was a good turnout and we were proud to be able to do that for the first time,” Kennedy said. “We had a lot of folks who came out that evening and shared their stories. It is very difficult for people who have been living in recovery, particularly for a long time, to come out and talk about how they got over. We really appreciate them doing that.”
Kennedy also announced that they are hosting a health seminar on Sept. 25 that will include speakers who will discuss recovery and the role the community plays.
“It’s a community issue and it is something everybody can play a role in,” he said.
A speaker from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division will be on hand to talk about marijuana and the legalization of it.
“If you’ve been paying attention to the news across the nation, many states are trying to legalize marijuana and we want to provide some information so that we can understand why or why we should not have that legalized here in Fairfield County or certainly in South Carolina,” he said.
He invited the council to come to the seminar so they can see first-hand what FBHS does nd encouraged the community to become involved.
“We want you to encourage other people to share their stories. Many folks in our churches, in our communities and in our jobs, they are living recovery lives and we need to set the environment such that they are welcome to talk about how they came through,” Kennedy said. “We encourage everybody to plan a recovery event, whether it’s at your church, at your job, wherever. Plan and celebrate people who are in recovery so that they might continue these efforts.”
The seminar will be held at Carolina Event Center from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 25. The cost to attend is $15 per person.
Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley asked Kennedy about the services his agency provides to children.
“The fortunate thing is we are in the schools, in all of the schools and we are starting as early as kindergarten,” he said. “What we try to do is have a continuum of services so we start in kindergarten through first grade providing some introductory classes about substance abuse, about different kinds of drugs, violence, healthy eating and those kinds of things.”
As the children age, so does what they are taught or exposed to.
“Of course, we move on the other ages where the more evidence based types of programs, things we can monitor and assess on drug abuse or violence prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, things like that, all up to the high school, even providing programs on tobacco education,” he said. “These programs are evidence based. They prove that there are going to be some positive results.”
Carolyn Robinson, chair of county council, praised Kennedy for what the agency does for the community.
“I like to hear that you are starting very young because you never know who or what children are growing up with in those situations,” she said. “It makes a mark on them that they are going to carry with them for the rest of their life. They have to deal with it and learn how to accept it and realize it’s not them that is creating the problem.”
In other business, Virgil Porter spoke to council during the second public comment period, questioning economic development in the county.
“As far as economic development, we cannot have somebody sitting here in economic development called the director of economic development, waiting on a phone call from someone like the Alliance in Columbia or the Department of Commerce to call us and tell us they are bringing us a prospect,” he stated. “We’ve got to have someone who’s aggressive, setting up a blue ribbon committee, to select the type of industry this county could best suit then aggressively go after.”
Porter went so far as to suggest to council that Fairfield County not belong to the Alliance.
“I believe we could save money by getting out of that and doing it on our own,” he said. “Economic development certainly needs some help because industry would solve all the problems. Right now, we can thank the good lord for the VC Summer plant.”
Council accepted his comments for the record but took no action.
Patricia M. Edwards is the regional editor for Civitas Media’s properties in South Carolina, which includes The Herald Independent. She is also the General Manager of The Herald Independent. She can be reached at email@example.com.