After the Webinar: Alcohol, Drugs and Rural Communities. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters Sheriff Rich Myers, Judge Joseph Flies-Away and Linda Chezem answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Alcohol, Drugs, and Rural Communities. Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: What are some of the more effective ways for communicating in a rural community? 

Linda Chezem: Thank you. I’m going to start with that because we’ve learned that many of our newspapers in many communities have gone away completely. In rural areas, we can’t depend on Facebook’s close community chatrooms and so the answer is each community is going to have to figure what resources they have and how they might do better at engaging and communicating with the people who live there. I was going to ask Sherriff Myers, you have the experience state-wide as well as in Morgan county. How do you communicate with Hall, in Eminence, all of these rural communities in Morgan County that aren’t Martinsville and are not particularly in the Indianapolis news area?

Sheriff Rich Myers:  We got various ways and of course in a lot of those smaller communities, we still have the town marshals that we rely on a lot Monroe has a town marshal office. Perry has a town marshal office, Morgantown and Brooklyn all have town marshals office that we’re able to communicate with every important communication with. They are able to communicate with the chief or any of their deputies any time they want. Some of those that you mentioned like Hall and some areas that we do not have the officers that patrol the area or service firearm deputies are able to communicate with those people out there either throughout their own town boards that we address with or their community advisory boards. There’s a lot of live communications anywhere in the county that we have in the Sherriff’s office that we are able to keep that line of communications open. You were addressing that earlier. I agree in total 100% with the lack of broadband internet to the counties hinders a lot. I have experienced that myself in my area where I live down in the Western part of my county has no internet access to my house. That is the hindrance. Once I leave work, it is very very difficult getting in touch. The internet home service is very unreliable. That is the hindrance too. I know a lot of rural communities here in Indiana.

Linda Chezem: Thank you so much for that observation. I’m glad I’m not the only one on the call has to rely on the cellphone when we’re out there on the farm. Judge Flies-Away, how do you add to that question? What do you think are the best communication strategies?

Judge Flies-Away: Well aside from communication, people have no problem coming up to each other and saying what we think in our council meetings. I think communication with others is more difficult and we have to work on that to enable us to cooperate. We have newsletters, we have really good newsletters. Lots of tribes have that. Radio is another one. Some tribes have radio stations. We have a radio station as well. There’s a mechanism. Radio is a very good means.

Linda Chezem: Thank you. that’s great. I think it’s interesting. The problem of communicating outside of the community is pretty universal. How do we get our needs communicated out? How did people communicate to tell us about resources? Aaron, you have another question for us?



Audience Question: I work for the local law enforcement agency that has a very strained relationship with our local tribal communities. Do you have suggestions on how we might start repairing this relationship? 

Judge Flies-Away:  There’s a – we can talk a whole lot about that specifically. I guess there is a lot of history between places, neighborhoods, tribes and local government. Somewhere, some down the line, someone who can go over and sit and talk candidly from the heart and say we are next to each other. We are not going anywhere. We need to talk about this. Perhaps bring in a facilitator to sit down with them. There’s ceremonial ways like talking circle but this talking together from a good heart. You have to start doing that otherwise a lot of the hurt and pain is going to continue. I know there are no reservations in Indiana but I am sure maybe they have neighbors or other counties they don’t get along with. They may want to contribute to that. I think it just has to do with some point. One, you confront, you communicate, you make compromises in order to reach concord which is peace.

Sheriff Rich Myers: Absolutely and we are very fortunate here in Indiana, within our office that we do communicate well with our surrounding community, with our fellow law enforcement officers. You’ve hit on it totally 100%. Communications is the total that you need to rely on whether it is inter-department or outside of your department. To keep the lines of communications open, to keep the ideas fresh, to let them know what is going on. Once that communications break down and those, unfortunately, rumors of what’s going on within your department or outside of your department and can get out of hand and can be irreversible sometimes, damages them. We stay in contact with the agencies that we are trying to work with. I myself have monthly meetings with our prosecutors’ office, with our surrounding community officers and with departments. Police department and the town marshals that we just get together. Hash out to what’s going on in other departments, what are you seeing here within your office and what’s going on within your area and that can bring a lot good positive changes and ideas that are maybe you didn’t think about that was going on in your area that can be brought out and resolved easily.



Audience Question: How do you see the legalization of marijuana that is occurring in many jurisdictions impacting enforcement and detention in rural counties? 

Linda Chezem: For a rural community, the legalization of marijuana is – I’m very concerned that it’s a disaster. The reason that I say that is one for local enforcement, we have no standards that relate the content, the active content of how much marijuana is in the brain to a level of impairment. I have done two impaired driving assessments, three. I’m counting as I think. The state of Washington, state of Massachusetts and state of  Michigan all have legalized marijuana. I have done impaired driving assessments in those states and the problems with the legalization of marijuana at the state level, one it doesn’t legalize marijuana at the national level. If someone in the community is receiving some kinds of benefits or employed by the Federal government, marijuana usage can result in significant penalties and they may not really understand that. That’s an issue. From the law enforcement perspective, I don’t know how or we don’t have enough drug recognition experts that are on call and available to assess the impairment of the person due to marijuana. I could talk for hours about these challenges. I actually prepared a handout for our clients at my law firm listing what the federal impacts are if you are using marijuana in a state where it is legal. Again if you are using marijuana in a state where it is illegal just because you bought it in Michigan does not make it legal in Indiana. My friends in Michigan who are listening to this, you guys are causing us a lot of problems down here. I will stop and let Sherriff Myers, do you see the legalization of marijuana as an issue for Indiana? We have not legalized it yet.

Sheriff Rich Myers: Right. It is something that we are discussing just the other day. Something that we hadn’t actually thought of until talking to our partners in Michigan is the retraining of the K9. The expense of undertaking that has to happen there and the training that has gone on with the K9 officers and what they are trained on to proactively search and find and is going to have to be trained again with the legalization of marijuana, not to recognize that drug. That in itself is going to be a monumental amount of money to start with to get to train to dogs online which is something that a lot of them, that a lot of people are not thinking about.

Linda Chezem: And Judge Flies-Away, each tribe has its own set of laws. how does the legalization of marijuana in a state affect the tribe?

Judge Flies-Away: Similar as you are talking to different jurisdictions in different rules of laws. I am doing a job now in which two of the tribes I work with have opened Cannabis stores. They’re in California so it is legal. In some cases say somebody has a medical marijuana card in Arizona and the tribe doesn’t have the same law, their card does not work in the tribe. I had to deal with that in the past. There were a lot of cross-jurisdictional issues that may come up. A lot of collaborative effort will have to be undertaken to deal with them as they show themselves.

Linda Chezem: We need to collaborate by chaos and with that Aaron, I think you have another question?



Audience Question: Are there specific funding opportunities that you are aware of from either the Federal government or private foundations that are designed to address some of the unique issues of the rural communities. 

Linda Chezem: Yes and I will answer that. USDA is focusing on the opioid issues for rural communities. My concern, and again I don’t want to criticize anything that is helpful and obviously, something is better than nothing. I don’t know that opioids alone are the issue in the rural communities. It concerns me a little bit that the programming appears to be focused on opioids and I’m not sure opioids alone, I think you have to include some of the other drugs particularly. In some communities, alcohol and meth are the drugs of choice and not the opioids. That is just my concern off the top of my head. Obviously, there is funding from the office of the justice programs with different focuses. With that, Judge Flies- Away, I don’t know about funding tribal. You might have a comment on that.

Judge Flies-Away: A lot of the funding that can go to tribes, Department of Justice or whatever, a lot of them can be coordinated with the local government. The person who asked the question of how they can work there. Some ways may perhaps a grant opportunity and I know some tribes who have lost some grant funding because they weren’t able to work well with their neighbor. Every tribal grant or many of them can be utilized to work with the rural areas around them. As the question brought up, there are some issues with that. I don’t know specifically to a rural community grant.

Linda Chezem: The specific ones are USDA rural development grants and they are actually working with the National Sheriffs Association. I believe that’s the meeting that Steve Luce is in today. Hopefully, something will come out of that with really focusing on rural communities and building the collaborations, the cooperation with law enforcement. Because law enforcement has the data, they know who’s doing what. Aaron, I can do some more research on that but I think that’s pretty clear for a rural focus that’s USDA. There are other funds available to be used from the US Department of Justice Office of Justice Program, Community-Oriented Policing, etc. that rural communities could apply for but they are not limited to rural as much as the USDA program is.

Sheriff Rich Myers: Linda you might check also with your local health department about the grants and the availabilities to steer you to with your local health department.

Linda Chezem: You are correct. CDC gives money to the State Departments of health and they give it to the local health department and I am blanking, just looked at that. They do have some programming around the opioids, the needle exchange and all of those. That’s the – thank you for the reminder.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Alcohol, Drugs, and Rural Communities.  


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