Health coalition to host Natchez meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NATCHEZ — In an effort to create drug-free communities, the Southwest Mississippi Health Coalition is hosting a community meeting in Natchez.

The coalition will meet from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday in a public forum at the George W. Armstrong Library.

Coalition Director J.R. Johnson said the coalition works to eradicate drugs, alcohol and tobacco from the lives of youth, first by identifying the source, then solving the problem.

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The coalition services 10 counties in southwest Mississippi — Adams, Amite, Claiborne, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Lawrence, Walthall, Wilkinson and Pike.

Johnson said Natchez is the second largest municipality the coalition services, and it’s also a good target city.

“We’re trying to look at Natchez and Adams County to see what people think the major issues are.”

And for the most part, it’s targeting youth, he said.

“We completed a youth perception of risk survey that we do every year, and over the past six years we’ve seen an increase in the amount of marijuana use,” he said.

“We want to look at why the youth are getting access to drugs.”

The information provided through the community can lead to the development of policies and legislation to curtail illegal sale of alcohol, the misuse of prescription drugs and other drug use, Johnson said.

He said Wednesday’s meeting is an important one for community members to attend.

“If they want status quo, don’t come,” Johnson said of Natchez citizens. “If they want to start working toward improving their community and addressing the exposure of youth illegal substances, then they need to come to this meeting.”

The Southwest Mississippi Rural Health Coalition is a nonprofit community support agency that has been operating since 1994.