Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author:  Leslie Boyd


ASHEVILLE -- A year after he first suggested a mayor's commission to
deal with drugs in the city and county, Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower took
the initiative and formed one himself.

"It was just time to start work," Mumpower said this week as he
announced the formation of the Asheville Drug Commission, composed of
members from law enforcement, the courts, education, housing, the
faith community, social services, business and more.

Mumpower said he became interested in problems in public housing soon
after he took office, and he discovered drugs were at the root of many
of the problems, especially in the public housing developments.

"I came to believe that if we couldn't succeed with drugs, we couldn't
move forward with other things we need to do," he said.

So, he began calling people he thought might be able to help.

Gene Bell of the Asheville Housing Authority said he believes the
diversity of people on the 18-member commission will help it develop a
multi-faceted approach.

"Historically, we've gone with the police, and then we've gone with
community education and nothing has worked because we haven't tried
using all these approaches simultaneously," Bell said. "That's what
we'll be able to do with this commission. I think we'll see a change in the
coming year."

The Rev. Buddy Corbin of Calvary Baptist Church in West Asheville has
seen what drugs can do to a person or a neighborhood.

"I've never known of anyone who's had much success dealing with it,"
Corbin said. "But most deal with it through enforcement. It's a
complex problem, and the solutions will be complex."

Corbin sees solutions in better access to mental health treatment
because so many people with mental illness self-medicate and in
addressing issues of poverty.

"Families in poverty have to focus so much on making ends meet, they
can't focus on their kids," he said.

Valerie Collins, executive director of Helpmate, said she agreed to
sit on the commission because drug use is so often a factor in
domestic violence, which Helpmate works to eradicate.

"One thing we're seeing more and more is women being forced into
prostitution to pay for drugs," Collins said. "And we see
(methamphetamine) as a growing problem in that kids are losing their
families because of it."

Cliff Dodson, superintendent of Buncombe County Schools, said he
likely would not have agreed to serve on the commission if he didn't
believe it could take action.

"I asked specifically whether this would be an action committee, and I
believe it will," he said. "I don't do well with ambiguity."
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