It has been quite a while since we have written a blog. A lot has changed in the past several months. Even before COVID-19, the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth (JCSHY) Coalition had experienced some big changes in 2019. First, our Drug-Free Communities grant ended in March after 10.5 years of full funding for staff and activities for coalition work to reduce youth substance use, particularly reducing youth alcohol and marijuana use. We still had and have the CARA (Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act) grant through June of 2021, which allows for part-time funding of staff and activities. That funding focuses on reducing youth prescription drug and methamphetamine use through coalition work. Because of the support of our community, we also have local funding for our work. With the CARA grant and local funding together, we have two part-time staff members, Jennifer and Amy who combined are working about 55% of their time specifically with the Jones County coalition. The coalition also addresses other priority areas, including nicotine use, gambling prevention, adult substance misuse, and promoting mental wellness.

Jennifer started working 75% of her time with the state-wide coalition, the Alliance of Coalitions for Change (AC4C) in the winter. The JCSHY Coalition has always been a part of AC4C as their goals line up exactly with ours as a coalition. Other Jones coalition members have participated in AC4C for years along with Jennifer as AC4C helped us reach our goals by working with others across the state for common purposes, and learning from others about strategies that work. Working part-time with AC4C has been a great fit, allowing her to continue to work for Jones County part-time too.

Of course everything has been different since spring with most activities moving to the virtual world. All coalition meetings have been virtual, including presentations to civic groups and city councils and trainings presented by national speakers. We were able to have a couple of our annual fundraising events this summer after our spring 5K was cancelled. Thanks to coalition members and the community those events were still a great success.

It is harder to reach the kids, but the youth advisory group has met outside at parks in the summer and after school and also virtually. Once stores opened the youth hung their Meth prevention and Natural High posters around again. Before that they put out yard signs supporting safe graduation and summer time celebrations. The coalition has purchased billboards and used social media, emails, our website, and the newspapers for communicating our messages.

There have been some great things happening with the start of the Jones County Diversion program supported by coalition. We continue the TIPS Responsible Beverage Service Trainings in small groups or on-line. Last month we had the community-based Lemonade for Life training, making plans on how to build resiliency in our community. This week we had an on-line training about Marijuana, Vaping, Meth and Other Drugs with 51 people attending. We are planning more evidence-based activities for this winter and spring. The coalition is taking time to regroup, inventory our talents and resources, and vision for the future. We will keep highlighting the good things happening in the community, looking for opportunities to work with and in the schools, and build the capacity of the coalition. We do all this to keep improving the culture around substance use so our kids can grow up to be adults living their best lives possible!

Every two years 6th, 8th, and 11th graders across the state of Iowa participate in the Iowa Youth Survey. This survey tracks responses by students on questions regarding their thoughts of their community, schools, and home life but for local organizations, like the Jones County Safe & Healthy Youth Coalition, the information regarding substance use and mental health is vital to continuing important prevention work. The 2018 report was released this past May and has indicated some positive trends in Jones County. Underage drinking continues to decrease significantly. The 11th grade past 30 day reported use of any alcohol decreased from 24% in 2016 to 14% in 2018. The past 30 day binge drinking rate for 11th grade also decreased from 15% in 2016 to 7% in 2018. Looking back at the past fifteen years when the Coalition first started analyzing the data, the past 30 day rates for any 11th grade alcohol use and binge drinking have decreased from 52% which is a tremendous decline!

The past 30 day reported use of marijuana also decreased for 11th grade again from 11% in 2016 to 5% in 2018. That number has gone down significantly since 2008 (16%) when the Coalition received the Drug Free Community grant and began addressing youth marijuana use as one of their priorities.

Prescription drug misuse is down from 4% to 3% for 11th grade reported use between 2016 and 2018, and down from 9% back in 2012 when the coalition added prescription drugs to their priority issues. Methamphetamine use for 11th grade also thankfully decreased from 2% back down to 1% county-wide.

Cigarette and the combined use of any type of tobacco is also down from 8% to 5%, and 12% to 9% respectively, between 2016 and 2018 for 11th grade, but e-cigarettes/vaping or the use of “JUUL” products increased significantly for 8th and 11th grade. For 11th grade the rates increased from 10% in 2016 to 22% in 2018. The 8th grade rates also increased county-wide from 1% in 2016 to 5% in 2018. This will continue to be a priority area for the Coalition work. The question in the survey does not ask what is being vaped. We assumed with the question in the past that the drug being vaped was nicotine. However, the trend nationwide is an increasing amount of liquid and potent THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) is being vaped. Meth and other drugs are also being vaped across the nation and is an area of concern in our area as well.

Starting 2 years ago, the Coalition Planning Committee began analyzing the mental health data more closely. Mental health and improving resiliency has become a focus of the coalition work. Unfortunately, the trends for questions related to mental health and suicide ideation are not good on a county or state level for any grade. There was an increase from 18% in 2016 to 32% in 2018 of 11th graders who reported thinking seriously about killing themselves in the past year. The 8th graders reporting suicide ideation in the past year also increased from 9% to 20%.

In light of this disheartening data, it is encouraging that there has been an emphasis on Mental Health First aid and schools are hiring more professionals to focus on the mental health of the students. The Coalition will continue to encourage parents, schools and other adults in the community to do all we can to build resiliency in our youth. The Coalition is in need of more members and volunteers. To get involved either call 462-4327 x202 or come to our next Coalition meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 11:30 at the Lawrence Community Center in Anamosa.

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The Coalition is busy this fall with lots of upcoming events as you can see. At the end of this month, we are finishing the last official year of our Drug Free Community (DFC) grant after having it for 10 years at $125,000/year. We have requested a no-cost extension with our carryover funding which we should hear back about very soon. We will continue to address underage drinking and marijuana use with that funding. In July, we also received the 3 year CARA grant for $50,000 each year to address youth methamphetamine use and prescription drug misuse. With that funding and the no-cost extension, as well as our local funding from the county and from the cities of Anamosa, Martelle, Monticello, Onslow and Olin, and all the private and business donations and fundraisers, we are in good financial shape for this year. We continue to also address tobacco/nicotine use as a Coalition and included in our action plans are efforts to address youth mental wellness as well as promote resilience building for our youth, while working to reduce adverse childhood experiences.
The DFC grant required us to write separate action plans for each substance, which is good because each is unique. The truth is we also need to address all drugs at once, and we are trying. As we have heard about in the news, there is a terrible opioid problem in our country. The newest estimates are that we lost 72,000 people to drug overdoses last year, so many of them are only in their 20’s. About 50,000 died from opioids, including Rx opioids, and heroin and fentanyl. Opioids kill quickly. At the same time, we are seeing a resurgence of meth which is also killing people and causing extreme havoc in the lives of families and communities, including our county. We are seeing an increase in marijuana use across the nation with legalization spreading now to 8 states and their marijuana being diverted to the other states. Cigarette usage has gone down over the years, but as you have probably heard, the use of electronic smoking devices or vaping nicotine and other drugs is increasing especially with our youth. Adult binge drinking is rising and this includes the underage 18 to 20 year old adults. Other Rx drugs such as stimulants like Adderall and anti-anxiety medications like Xanax are being misused in our area and across the nation by young people. Many of the drugs listed above are being used in combination, sometimes deadly combinations. At times it is on purpose, and sometimes it is unknown to the user because the drug dealer or cartels have tainted the drug with another deadly drug or marked them as something they are not.
We try to be positive in our efforts to prevent and reduce youth substance use, reminding kids and parents that healthy living is always good medicine and that there are great ways to get a natural high on life like kayaking, running, playing music, etc. We have tried to educate the community through events and marketing campaigns and worked on policies that have made a large dent in the youth alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and Rx drug use. But now is the time for EVERYONE to do what they can to talk about the dangers of underage drinking, binge drinking, youth marijuana use, all Rx drug misuse, and meth. One drug often leads to another. Living drug free is completely possible! So many of those who misuse Rx opioids and move on to heroin used alcohol heavily and/or used marijuana regularly as a young person first. Almost all those who use meth started with tobacco and/or marijuana before they tried meth. Let’s help youth not want to escape life, but instead get the help they need so they can enjoy their lives!

Sabrina Rogers, LMHC Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition President

The Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition started a new campaign to thank parents and community members for making a difference in the lives of Jones County youth. “You are the Buffer” began as an idea on how the Coalition can focus on the strengths of our community and grew into a full campaign. So many times parents and adults are blamed for the problems youth face. The Coalition wanted to do something drastically different. “You are the Buffer” is aimed at parents and community adults reminding them they do have a positive influence on their children and are a buffer between youth and substance use. The campaign specifically reminds adults of all the positive things they do for youth that help build resilience. For example, listening when youth speak; being present with them at home, at school, at sporting events, etc.; and taking a genuine interest in them and their activities. “You are the Buffer” will also give parents and community adults more ideas on how they can be a buffer to youth to help further the Coalition’s mission of preventing and reducing youth substance use. Look soon for “You are the Buffer” messages on the Coalition’s social media pages, at the local businesses, and at school and community events.

The first message can be found at Grounds and Goodies in Anamosa and Java Jones in Monticello on to-go coffee cup sleeves, “At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to success is the positive involvement of parents.  You are the Buffer!”  The second message is just getting started. Be on the lookout for our next message: “Stories Matter. Listen. #youarethebuffer” You may notice these stickers on a cinnamon roll you buy at a coffee shop or a bag of popcorn at a community event. We are reminding adults and parents to take the time to listen to kids and encourage them to share what is going on in their lives with you.  Being a buffer does not mean that you protect your kids from learning some of their own lessons, in fact it can mean the very opposite. It may mean lovingly but firmly enforcing that rule or consequence so they grow into responsible young adults. Instead being a buffer is being that person in a kid’s life who they can go to talk when life isn’t easy.


Last fall the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition hosted a workshop with Dr. David Jernigan, Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing & Youth and Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and during that training attendees learned that in America, 15% of breast cancer is related to alcohol use. Although, it is extremely important to find cures for cancers, in the prevention world, it is hard to ignore and not focus on what can be causing different medical conditions. Each fall, on a cool and crisp autumn morning, thousands of us all dressed in brightly colored t-shirts remember those who have passed and those who have survived, line up to participate in the “Especially for You Race” to raise money for mammograms and other breast care services. Most of us know someone has had breast cancer and the impact is huge. But are other preventative measures also important?
The Susan G Komen website provides a vast amount of information regarding prevention and makes valid points when addressing the connection between alcohol and breast cancer. They state that some studies suggest drinking alcohol in the teen years (up until the age at first pregnancy) may increase a woman’s breast cancer risk in adulthood. One large study found that for every 6-7 alcoholic drinks a woman consumed each week between the age when she started her period and the time of her first pregnancy, her breast cancer risk increased by 10 percent.
The website also shares that data from 53 studies found for each alcoholic drink consumed per day, the relative risk of breast cancer increased by about 7 percent. Women who had 2-3 alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who didn’t drink alcohol. This information is concerning. Often when someone opens a bottle of wine they do not drink 4-5 ounces, what is considered one standard drink. It’s easy to end up drinking 2-3 servings of wine without even realizing it.
Why does alcohol increase the risk of breast cancer? Studies show that alcohol can change the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen. This can cause blood estrogen levels to rise. Estrogen levels are higher in women who drink alcohol than in non-drinkers. These higher estrogen levels may in turn, increase the risk of breast cancer according to Susan G Komen’s information.
We’ve all heard of the risks of binge drinking and how it can come with many consequences. We also know that drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol, however, may lower the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and death for some. However, drinking more than 1 drink per day (for women) and more than 2 drinks per day (for men) has no health benefits and many serious health risks, including breast cancer.
The culture of drinking has changed over the last decade, and youth have noticed. The youth I talk to do not think it is cool when adults in their lives drink cases of beer regularly or even when adults binge drink occasionally. Unfortunately, there seems to be a sense with females especially, that women drinking wine regularly is more sophisticated and more acceptable. While low risk drinking can be safe for some, some extra attention does need to be held. April is Alcohol Awareness month. It’s a good time to think about our attitudes and behaviors concerning alcohol and see how they might be affecting our health.


Selling alcohol, whether sold off-site or served on-site in a bar or restaurant, is not something to be taken lightly. Businesses who sell alcohol face a litany of legal and safety concerns. For these reasons, the Jones Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition feels strongly that comprehensive alcohol service policies should be promoted to our community business partners, and occasionally tested. One of the best practices to test is the carding policy of businesses, wherein all persons appearing under the age of 35 be asked for identification prior to service, acting as a strong safeguard against potential underage sales.

Locally, two programs exist to help check ID policies, which are usually conducted on an annual or semi-annual basis. These include compliance checks done by law enforcement and the private BARS program, sponsored by the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition. The most recently conducted checks, conducted in December of last year and January of the New Year, reveal mixed results.

Compliance checks occur when law enforcement uses a volunteer underage youth who, under the direction and supervision of law enforcement, attempts to purchase alcohol at any business with an alcohol license. Here in Jones County, local law enforcement agencies make a point to check as many off-premises (convenience & grocery stores) as possible. This year 20 checks were conducted in which only 2 failed, resulting in a 90% pass rate. Though this is down from last years’ 100% success rate, it remains far above 2016’s rate of 41%. This indicates a sustained commitment from our local discount and convenience stores to ID before completing a sale.

While law enforcement’s compliance checks focus on businesses in which alcohol is bought and consumed elsewhere, the Coalition has hired the BARs program for the fourth year in a row to check bars and restaurants wherein alcohol is consumed on premise. The BARS program is operated privately and does not have the force of law. It utilizes young adults that are of age, yet are still close enough to the legal age of 21 that they should always be asked for identification. Servers that ask for an ID prior to service are given a “green card” and congratulated on their precaution, whereas servers that do not ask for an ID are given a “red card” and reminded on the importance of identification. This year yielded disappointing results, with only 8 of the 17 businesses checked receiving a green card, coming in just below 50%. This is especially concerning considering that last years’ BARS checks had a green card rate of 92%.

While the results for this years’ BARS program are not ideal, it should be noted that overall trends for underage drinking in Jones County remain positive. Fewer youth are drinking underage, and most businesses work quickly to address any lapses in policies when a check is failed or a red card is given. To aid businesses, the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition offers free assistance to craft business polices, and provides the internationally recognized TIPs, Training in Intervention Procedures, program freely to all Jones County businesses. TIPs instructs employees on all relevant safety and liability issues in regard to alcohol service, including proper identification practices. To learn more about these trainings or other resources available, please contact Jeff Meyers at 319-390-1884 ext 202, or e-mail .


By Jeff Meyers, Certified Prevention Specialist, ASAC

Though tobacco use rates continue to decline, with 15.1% of adults being classified as smokers nationwide, its’ health implications remain a very real cause for concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds cigarette smoking to be the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, linking it to 1 out of every 5 deaths. With figures like this, it’s hard to overstate the health consequences of tobacco use. At the same time, tobacco prevention efforts and cessation support have never been stronger, coming not just from health professionals but also in areas of the community you wouldn’t immediately expect. Increasingly, employers are becoming a growing player in the move toward a tobacco and nicotine free society.

For employers, there are many reasons to be concerned with tobacco use. The health care costs of users and the resulting productivity losses come out to an estimated $289 billion dollars, just in the United States alone. In an environment of rising insurance costs, this is a tough burden to bear for many employers, especially when their bottom line is threatened by lowered productivity from employees that use. In fact, tobacco using employees miss approximately 2.6 more days of work annually versus their non-smoking colleagues. Employers must also confront the maintenance costs with tobacco waste in and around the worksite. Above all, however, the overriding concern for many employers if their employees’ health and wellness.

To help address this issue, many employers are choosing to be proactive in helping their employees quit tobacco. They understand that tobacco addiction is very real, and often tough to break. A CDC study found that 70% of smokers want to quit, 50% have tried, but only 6% have succeeded. For this reason, employers find it vital to aid their employees’ efforts to quit by hosting cessation classes, referring to cessation support services, hosting lunch and learns to learn about important quit tips, and providing aides to help in the quitting process.

In conjunction with helping employees quit, employers are also increasingly looking at their own policies in relation to what’s allowed on worksite property. Many people are aware of Iowa’s law prohibiting smoking in public places, including worksites, but this isn’t extended to many outside places, and doesn’t cover other harmful tobacco and nicotine based products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. To address this gap, many employers have found it in their best interest to adopt policies making their property completely tobacco and nicotine free. This reduces maintenance costs, encourages employees to quit, and helps to promote a safe and healthy atmosphere.

While many businesses and organizations would love to help their employees, lower their costs, and boost productivity, it can be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, there are many free resources available to help support, educate on, and implement a tobacco and nicotine free policy for your worksite. For more information, contact Jeff Meyers with the Area Substance Abuse Council by calling 319-390-1884 or e-mail


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American Society of Addiction Medicine:
“ASAM asserts that cannabis, cannabis-based products, and cannabis delivery devices should be subject to the same standards that are applicable to other prescription medications and medical devices and that these products should not be distributed or otherwise provided to patients unless and until such products or devices have received marketing approval from the Food and Drug Administration. ASAM rejects smoking as a means of drug delivery since it is not safe. ASAM rejects a process whereby State and local ballot initiatives or legislative efforts approve medicines because these initiatives are being decided by individuals not qualified to make such decisions.”

ASAM Public Polict Statement on Marijuana, Found at:
Medical Use of Marijuana: ACS Position, Found at:
American Glaucoma Foundation:
“Marijuana, or its components administered systemically, cannot be recommended without a long-term trial which evaluates the health of the optic nerve,” said the editorial. “Although marijuana can lower IOP, its side effects and short duration of action, coupled with a lack of evidence that its use alters the course of glaucoma, preclude recommending this drug in any form for the treatment of glaucoma at the present time.”
National Multiple Sclerosis Society:
“Although it is clear that cannabinoids have potential both for the management of MS symptoms such as pain and spasticity, as well as for neuroprotection, the Society cannot at this time recommend that medical marijuana be made widely available to people with MS for symptom management. This decision was not only based on existing legal barriers to its use but, even more importantly, because studies to date do not demonstrate a clear benefit compared to existing symptomatic therapies and because issues of side effects, systemic effects, and long-term effects are not yet clear.”
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
“Any change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents.” While it supports scientific research on the possible medical use of cannabinoids as opposed to smoked marijuana, it opposes the legalization of marijuana.
American Medical Association (AMA):
The AMA calls for more research on the subject, but indicates that such a call “should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product.”
John Knight, director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children’s Hospital Boston:
“Marijuana has gotten a free ride of sorts among the general public, who view it as non-addictive and less impairing than other drugs. However, medical science tells a different story.”

I would like to thank those in attendance & those tuning in on Facebook Live. In regards to my accident, they say go big or go home, I definitely didn’t make it home that night so I must have went big! I want to thank my family, especially my Mom for access to this laptop for this presentation, and for school, amongst many, many other things. I want to thank my Dad and my Uncle Kenny for being there for me from the U of Iowa all the through my time at the Minneapolis VA. Thank you to Juli Ulrich for making the donation box, a special thank you to Jennifer Husmann for helping me with this presentation and for advertising ‘A Tale to Tell”. I want to thank Deputy Tim Smith for being here; he was the Deputy on-scene at my crash site. To all of you who came and visited me while in the hospital at the U of Iowa and/ or the IC VA &/ or the Minneapolis VA. I believe that having each and every one of you there with me played a role in my recovery. I want to say thank Sam Moore for finding me that night. Absolutely none of this would be possible without his actions that night. I don’t have to wonder where I’d be right now if he hadn’t found me and taken the necessary actions. I want to thank the Olin EMT for keeping me alive in the bitter cold. It was -4 with wind chill that night. To the flight crew, the U of Iowa doctors, nurses, and anyone who has helped me to get to this point, thank you, as well as the Iowa City VA and the Minneapolis VA. Thank you to Erin Allen, & Maggie and Ethan Weirather for being with me and for me. Thank you to Katie Bassett for being there with and for me and for playing ‘Till I Collapse’ by Eminem when I was in a coma. She told me that the doctors made her turn it off as my legs started to kick and my pulse began to rise, they were unsure if I would go into shock. Even in a non-coma state, that song can cause shock for me! To start things off I will talk about my Army experiences. I believe that everything I have done has led me to this point in my life. Currently I have a 3.6 GPA at Argosy University in pursuit of psychology degree, I’ve served this country abroad twice, and I took the 2% chance the doctors gave me to survive and ran with it!; I think that that 2% was 1.9% more than I needed!
I’ll start a few years before my accident, all the way back to 2006; I found out in October of 2006 that I was being deployed to Iraq. Within the same week, while I was attempting my 2nd try at UD (the first was cut short by me joining the Army; I missed what would have been my sophomore year to complete Basic Training and AIT [Advanced Individual Training], the military loves acronyms); I decided I was going to be a medic, for no real reason other than it had a $10,000 enlistment bonus. Where do I sign? In October of ’06 I got word that I was deploying to Iraq, in the same week as that was also Homecoming and Halloween. To say I was a little full of myself at that time would be an understatement. I liked the positive attention I was getting because of my upcoming deployment. I wasn’t scared to go, maybe anxious. I felt like nobody would ‘fire truck’ with me, like I had a ‘free pass’; but you don’t get a ‘free pass’ for being deployed. The imaginary ‘free pass’ I thought I had was short lived, that Saturday I was arrested for my 2nd OWI. I had 2 OWI’s before I could legally drink. I had a problem but I didn’t think that I did; at least I wouldn’t admit to myself that I did. I somehow managed to get to Drill for the Iowa National Guard in Des Moines every month, without a driver’s license. Going to court for my 2nd OWI while at the same time gearing up for my upcoming deployment to Iraq, well, well that sucked.
First, I would like to thank all men and women, past and present who have joined the Armed Forces. I was in the Iowa National Guard and proud of it. Before getting to Iraq, I had to go to Camp Shelby, MS for pre-mobilization or pre-mob, training. This is required for all National Guard units before deploying. Pre-mob takes 2-3 months for a battalion to complete. Camp Shelby is located 60 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico; some call it the ‘arm pit of America’. I was there from June through August…summer…in what I refer to as; the ‘‘Brass’-hole of America’. Temperature wise it wasn’t as hot as Iraq, but I don’t know if there is anywhere on Earth that can compete with that humidity. I sweat a lot in Iowa during the summer when I’m not doing Army things, in Camp Shelby, MS; it looked like I was constantly playing in a sprinkler; I was dripping in sweat…constantly dripping in sweat. One night I made the mistake of shaving after showering, I was sweating so much once I applied the shaving cream that it was dripping off me. When I got to Iraq the temperature was 115 but with no humidity, I thought the weather was nice; hot and windy, sure, but with little to no humidity. The dessert heat in Iraq was nice, some of the people in Iraq however, they weren’t as nice.
I was in Iraq from Aug. of 2007 through the end of April ‘08, about 9 months. From August, fast-forward to Easter of that year, a Christian holiday in a non-Christian region. I’ll never forget that Easter fell on the last day of March in 2008. We only had a month to go until we were home. Lieutenant Speicher and I were walking to check-in early for our convoy when all of sudden we heard a loud whistle, it sounded like a plane almost but we looked up and neither of us saw any aircraft above. Approximately 10 seconds after hearing that whistle that we heard a BOOM; it wasn’t a plane that we heard but a rocket or a mortar, we stared at one another then rapidly ran to a bunker. Rockets and mortars are very deadly, packed with shrapnel, nuts & bolts, anything they can pack them with to cause injuries/fatalities. The bunker we found was full, ‘nut to butt’ as we refer to it in the military. We were inside the bunker for about 30 seconds when I heard two Marines about 75 yards from me yell ‘Coreman! Coreman!’ Coreman is Navy and Marine talk for medic. With me being a medic, I looked at Lt. Speicher and told him I have to go. Bravely and courageously, he followed. I got to the Marines and we began clearing housing trailers to ensure there was no body trapped inside of one. We got to one trailer and heard what sounded like a shower running. I thought “What a weird time to take a shower.” The shrapnel from of the mortars and/or rockets severed the plumbing, we found a man who was in the process of taking a shower when the mortars/rockets had impacted. His skull was severed from his ears on back. There was no time to mourn, we had to bag him and move on fore we were still getting mortared and rocketed. Lt. Speicher and I had split up by this point and I was near a large, metal generator. While I was near the generator a mortar or rocket impacted and I hit the ground and rolled underneath the generator. There were a few people near me who were stuck in the same predicament asking me what to do. There is no safe place when under a rocket and/or mortar attack, there are dangerous and less dangerous spots to be, and we were in a spot that was somewhere in-between, it could have been worse but it could have been A LOT better. After a few seconds had passed, when the ‘booms’ stopped, I yelled ‘Run! Now!’ And we ran. Thankfully there was a bunker within 50 yards of our location. We all ran to that and as luck would have it, Lt. Speicher was in there. I remember us repeatedly high fiving, grinning so much from the fact we had survived, almost laughing, as both of us were thankful that neither of us had been wounded, or worse, fatally wounded. The convoy that we were early for would not be leaving that day.
Post-Iraq/ Pre-Afghanistan
Upon getting home from Iraq, from the last day of April in 2008 through late-July of 2010, I was home in Iowa. I worked a construction job installing hardwood floors for a year or so, then went to Kirkwood College to give college a 3rd try. My 3rd attempt was much like my 2nd attempt. In October of 2009 I got the phone call that I would be deploying to Afghanistan. It turns out the Army; the military in general, doesn’t care what you are doing or what you will be doing; when they need you they need you, it’s not up for debate. I spent the next 9 months mostly drunk, from that Oct. through July of 2010. I drank because I needed to, I knew my time in America was coming to a temporary end again so why not… Before I deployed Iraq we got a week with paid/leave and we were only an hour and 45 minutes from New Orleans. Awesome! While in New Orleans I was thinking, “Tonight I’m going to drink like this is the last time I will ever drink, because it might be.” That thought stayed with me.
I only was arrested once in that time frame for a public intox in Iowa City. When I think of the number of times I drank in those 9 mos. and only getting arrested once, that would be considered a ‘hot streak’ for me. I have been arrested for alcohol related offenses 11 times (I think); 1 minor-in-possession, 8 public intoxications, and 2 of my 3 OWIs. Later I’ll discuss my 3rd OWI & why I wasn’t arrested for it.
In preparation for Afghanistan we had pre-mob, again my pre-mob was in Camp Shelby. Again I was there in summer; again it was so ‘fire trucking’, INCREDDD-ABLY hot. I was at Camp Shelby for 3 months, from mid-July of 2010 through the end of October. My deployment to Afghanistan was around 9 months, from November of 2010 to the end of July in 2011. My experience with war is that it is around 98-99% boring. During that time I watched movies, played video games, ate, and went to the gym…and that explains much of my time in Afghanistan. But that 1-2% that was not boring is what I’m going to tell you about. I was a member of 334 BSB (Battle Support Battalion); we medics were given away to whoever needed us, we didn’t have ONE Company that we served with; we had MANY Companies that we served with. It was mid-June and I had been given to an Engineering unit to serve as their medic for a few weeks for route clearance missions. I told myself at that time, “Get through this month, get home, and experience Eminem in concert at Lollapalooza in Chicago.” I had gone on a few missions with the Engineers and so far, so good. Not much had happened. June 12th, 2011 is a day I will never forget. We were going through a small village with the road forming an “S” curve. I was in a 7-8 vehicle convoy and I was the 2nd or 3rd vehicle from the front, nearly making it through the “S” till we heard a loud BOOM. We looked back and the trail vehicle in the convoy had been hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). My vehicle was about 75 yards from that vehicle, the road was hard to maneuver and the vehicles in-between us weren’t making it easy to get around. We got around 50 yards from the hit vehicle and crept to a stop. At this point I said “fire truck it” and chose to run the distance in-between myself and the down vehicle. Around the 20 yard mark the vehicle that was hit came into clearer view. I thought I was going to be walking up on fatalities; remarkably there were only 2 people in the truck. The 2 that would have been in there were doing a dismounted patrol. The two people in the vehicle, the driver and gunner, were still breathing, a sigh of relief came over me. The driver just had a concussion and the gunner had two broken ankles, nothing that I couldn’t handle or so I thought. We carried the soldier approximately 50-60 yards away from the impact site to protect us from a secondary IED, which there wasn’t. If there was, it didn’t detonate. The injured soldier was coherent and was aware of what was happening. I got him splinted up and started the I.V. process. I got the I.V. bag started and had liquid flowing and my other drugs on stand-by to counter the morphine I was about to give. I started looking for the auto-inject morphine, similar to Epi-pen’s, but I didn’t have any. I had the morphine that’s in the vial form; primarily meant for use in a clinical setting. I attempted to use the vial-type morphine, but I couldn’t get it to work. The soldier said there was no pain relief. I told him I’m sorry a hundred times or so, then I remembered I had some personal Tylenol in my bug-out bag; only thing was my bug-out bag was in my truck …about 100 yards away. Again I said “fire truck-it” and ran to my vehicle. I got the Tylenol and made my way back. The Tylenol didn’t do much for his ankles but that was the best I could do. Shortly after getting back, the Medevac Blackhawk arrived. It was a long distance and we were on a hill, I don’t remember how far it was because we had to carry him in a litter down a hill. Carrying a 200lb. man plus his equipment downhill is probably harder than carrying him uphill. Downhill, momentum plays a role, trying to keep his equipment from sliding off was a challenge too. Once I loaded him up and told the flight medics the situation, they were gone. After that I started to walk back with everyone who had carried him but I had sea-legs, I simply couldn’t walk due to exhaustion. I fell to a knee and one of the men who helped carry him ran and got me a Gatorade from his truck. That was the best-damn Gatorade I have ever had in my life.
We got back in late-July of 2011. I don’t know what day of the week it was exactly, I’ll call it a Tuesday, but that Friday I would be in Chicago at Lollapalooza, my first time experiencing Eminem! I saw him one other time at Lollapalooza ’13. Eminem was with me nearly every day from 1999 on, through high school, college, both deployments; I was probably listening to Eminem when I got in my accident, nearly every day. I say I experienced him rather than just heard him because I don’t just hear the words, I feel the words. About 2 months after being home, late September/ early October of 2011, I developed an addiction to Spice, synthetic marijuana. That addiction lasted for about 1.5 years. I hated it but loved it at the time. I was pulled over by the Marion PD after just taking a drag in my car. The cop had me do a field-sobriety test and didn’t believe me when I told it was Spice, not marijuana. He had the K9’s come and neither dog found anything. I can still picture the Spice bag falling out of my driver side door and the cop finding it as I was in his car with his back-up. He couldn’t believe that I was telling him the truth. At that time there was nothing legally he could do. He confiscated my pipe and what was left in my bag of Spice and told me that I really need to try and quit using Spice. I told him that I know, took my ticket, told him stay warm (it was winter), and drove away to go get another bag of Spice. I was hook-line-and sinker addicted. I went to work just so I’d have money for it, it was more important than eating, I would buy a bag of Spice before I’d buy bread. The only thing I placed above Spice was cigarettes, those are not good for me I know, but that’s how it was. I quit using Spice around February of 2013 and haven’t picked it up since. The two and half years that followed up until my accident were pretty laid back. I still drank heavily, but no major events. Everything seemed like it was going okay from February of ’13 through December 31st, 2014. Everything was going okay until it wasn’t. This brings me to my accident.
I was drinking more than I ever had at that time, around 4-5 times a week I’d say, usually ‘road tripping’. That is drinking by myself, driving around the gravel roads around CR. I had recently bought a white 2007 Ford F-150 and wanted to show it off. I had just turned 29 on Christmas of ‘14. Dec. 25th is my birthday. My sister, Katie, and her soon to be husband Marshall, rented a party bus for their party to the surrounding bars in Jones County. They were having their bachelor/ bachelorette party that night on NYE. I went to my good friend’s house to celebrate the end of another year before arriving at then Greg’s Pit Stop, or Greg’s as it was commonly called, is where the party bus would be departing from and arriving to. The night is somewhat fuzzy to me, on account of me drinking… and getting into that accident. There are things I can remember and things I can’t from that night. This I don’t remember, we got back to Greg’s and me and another friend stayed on the bus to help clean up, pick up beer cans and what not. He went inside to use the bathroom and in typical fashion of me at that time, I made my escape. I hopped in my truck with every intention of making to CR but only made it a couple miles west of Olin on E-45. I cannot remember what caused that accident; I have spent many of sleepless nights trying to recall the events that led up to it. It’s not for lack of effort or that I simply don’t want to remember them, I just can’t. I don’t know when Sam found me, when the Olin EMT arrived, or when the helicopter arrived. For those EMT personnel that were there, remember that this was in 4 below zero weather plus wind chill, I thank you for putting up with me and the weather that night. Everything they did and all the effort that was put in by those persons, especially Sam and the Olin EMT was done 36 degrees below freezing. Back to my memories, or lack thereof, of that night, it’s sort of like a double-edge sword in a sense, I want to remember but at the same time, I’m glad that I can’t remember. My truck rolled and slid about 100 yards off the highway. During that time is when I shattered my left hand (show scar), broke 2 vertebrae in my neck, my C4 & C5, and fractured my. I was in a coma for 4 weeks and fed by a stomach tube for 5. I can still remember vividly what is was like to eat a meal for the first time once the stomach tube was taken out, I had hospital fillet o’ fish and vegetables, and it tasted AMAZING. I couldn’t ask for seconds, but had I been able to I would have. I’ve heard some say that their guess is I laid in my truck in that field for about an hour, again I don’t know. I was at the U of I for a week where they did surgery on my hand and removed the broken fragments from my skull. From the U of Iowa I was transferred to the Iowa City VA for approximately 3 additional weeks. Then from Iowa City I was transferred to the Minneapolis VA for 2.5 months.
Once I was at the Minneapolis VA & I felt like I was out of the coma, my memory started to come back. However, during that transfer, the ambulance allowed my Dad to ride with me; there was also a paramedic in the back with me. I must’ve been dreaming or the morphine was playing tricks on me, or both, because I thought that the ambulance stopped at a Casey’s where I got up and casually walked inside and bought two 20oz. Pepsi’s, Pepsi is my favorite soda. Then at some point the paramedic in back stole one of my Pepsi’s, but as it turns out he didn’t and we never went there. I believed this for a couple of weeks and told my Dad about the Pepsi that was stolen from me, he looked at me and said “No…Philip we never went to a Casey’s or any convenience station for that matter.” I was dumbfounded, I swore that happened! But it turns out it didn’t happen.
Once the transfer was completed and I got over the paramedic stealing my Pepsi, it was time for work, A LOT OF WORK. Once I was able to fully look at myself in the mirror I can remember seeing my skull, or lack thereof, and saying to my Mom “What happened to my fire trucking skull? And where is my fire trucking truck?!” I had no idea what I had gone through or what my truck had gone through. My truck went from this to this to this is, what was left; Ford F-150’s are some tough trucks!
I can remember my Mom telling me what happened and still being in disbelief. For whatever reason I thought that my truck was at the Coralville Wal-Mart and that I had just put my wallet and phone in the center counsel. I didn’t think I totaled it in an accident. I felt like, “Okay, I get I was in a truck accident but what people are telling me CAN’T all be true. I feel fine; I definitely don’t feel like I went through all that.” As I started to see the x-rays from my hand, neck, and skull, I then began believing that it was true. I still have the scar on my stomach from where the feeding tube was. I called the 4th floor of the Minneapolis VA home for a while. I was in the Poly-trauma Unit ward. I had two physical therapists, a social worker, a psychologist and a few other members of the Poly-trauma team to help me, I owe those at the Minneapolis VA Poly-trauma ward a lot for helping me get where I am today. I still had one surgery to go, the cranial-plasti surgery to complete my skull. Going into that surgery, I was terrified, for the 2 months leading up to that I wasn’t scared of much. I remember grabbing my Mom and Dad’s hand and sobbing. I grabbed them and tried to curl around them like a baby. Everything went according to plan though. I came home to Iowa in early April of 2015, once the crainal-plasti surgery for my new skull was completed. I had 47 staples in my head to keep my skin intact and to let my new skull get settled in. The staples remained for 2 weeks upon getting home. I felt uncomfortable being ‘that guy with 47 staples in his head’. (Show where they were). I hated when I had to go in public for two reasons, 1 because I didn’t want people to see them and secondly because if anything touched them, it hurt. I wore a hat to conceal the staples but had to be careful when putting it on to avoid it touching one or more of the staples. I was beyond happy to get them removed. I was home for about a month and realized there were things that I still needed help with, ranging from my balance & coordination to my writing. Being that the right side of your brain controls your left extremities and the left side of your brain controls the right side, my right hand and leg are affected. From time to time my right hand will experience tremors, making the way I write slower and at times impossible. My walk has also permanently changed.
Around Thanksgiving of 2015 I started to get intense headaches. A headache can come on if I cough or bend my head below my heart. My body must deal with pain by sweating as I will begin sweating if they are intense. I remember one time last winter while I was outside a headache came on; once it passed I began sweating profusely. My pores were wide open from sweating; they were getting all of the Iowa winter they can handle. Their intensity can vary; the most intense is when I have something go down the wrong tube when swallowing. They are also the reason I have to have glasses now, they affect my vision. They can be debilitating at times.
I took a Greyhound bus from Iowa City to Minneapolis as I was allowed to attend a wedding. We went from Iowa City to Des Moines to Minneapolis; they must’ve wanted to take the scenic route. I was told by a Greyhound bus driver in Des Moines that he wasn’t going to let me ride the bus because he thought that I was drunk. He told me that he watched me pace outside while smoking a cigarette and he could see me stumbling and that my words were slurring together. I knew that I walked and talked a little different post-accident, but it never occurred to me that it looked like I was drunk. I took of my hat and showed him my scar and told him that’s why I appear and sound like that, I’m not drunk. I told him that I would blow zeroes. Eventually he let me on the bus.
A week later I was questioned by the Minneapolis VA police for being drunk. I told them that being drunk is why I’m here to begin with! I was referring to my accident. The officer didn’t believe me until they called my ward and got confirmation that I was who I said I was and that I was an in-patient under their care. At the time I was angry beyond belief, I didn’t sleep that night. Looking back now I’m glad that happened; it let me know that I do at times give the perception that I am drunk to those who don’t know me and it taught me how to handle that situation if it should occur again. That is part of the reason for my sobriety; I wanted to take that perception away from people. I didn’t want to give anyone the thought that I could be; I didn’t want people to think that my walk or speech is altered due to me being drunk. That was just the beginning of me thinking that, as I still drank from that point to August 22nd, 2015; my last drink of alcohol. I was referred to the alcohol & drug rehabilitation program at the St. Cloud VA in Minnesota. I was referred to go there because it would benefit me in court. I had to appear in court for my 3rd OWI in February of 2016. I thought that if by me going to St. Cloud, I’d reduce my jail time then okay, I’ll do it. I ended up not serving any jail time which was a bonus. It definitely wasn’t to clean myself of alcohol. But that’s what happened. A part of me is forever in their debt. Alcohol is so powerful that it took my accident, which should have been enough ‘alcohol rehabilitation’ in itself to make me give it up; it took that plus me going to St. Cloud for me to realize that alcohol and I have a love/hate relationship. I loved getting drunk but at times, I hated what it could make me do. My addiction to alcohol is why I got into my accident that night, when I weigh-out the pros and cons of me getting drunk, the cons win in a landslide.
My message isn’t to asking anyone quit drinking; my message is to evaluate one’s self while drinking and adjust if need-be. Some people handle it responsibly, I did not. It will be difficult to cut-back but please trust me, it’ll be worth it. To those that drink and drive, no matter where you are going and no matter the reason, it is not that important. Get to where ever you are going when you are sober. No matter the reason, if it’s important it will be there the next day to accomplish.
When referring to life in general, to quote Jimmy Valvano, “Never give up, don’t ever give up.” Know that whatever the obstacle or challenge is, you are strong enough to handle it. Know that what may seem as impossible to do, is possible and can be done.
I’ll finish with a quote from Eminem,
‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired, feel weak
And when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up
But you gotta search within you
And gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you
And get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face, and collapse…”
Are there any questions?
Questions can also be asked by messaging me on Facebook or posting your question on the ‘A Tale to Tell’ Facebook Event page.
Thank you for listening.


On Sept. 22 the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition held a forum on substance abuse and mental health, and the questions to the panelists addressed three substances, alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs/opiates, as well as mental health and how the abuse of these substances affects mental health.

The Coalition, like everyone, is concerned about the prescription drug and opioid epidemic. We have been working on the prescription drug abuse issue for a few years with efforts on safe disposal and monitoring needed medicines in homes and will continue this important work. We invited the director of the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative to speak at our Coalition meeting this summer. We are showing “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict” on Nov. 17, at Noon in Anamosa and in the evening in Monticello. We are promoting more use of, and improvements to, the prescription drug monitoring programs in Iowa, and we are certainly for increasing access to effective treatment for those with opioid disorders.

The Coalition remains concerned about all substance abuse, including prescription drug opiates, and feels that marijuana policy is worthy of scrutiny as well. “Medical marijuana” is a phrase that means different things to different people. For some, it means whole plant cannabis, for some, artisanal CBD Oil, and yet others are thinking of actual pharmaceutical grade CBD oil approved as other medicines are in our country. There are now whole plant cannabis hybrids with up to 32% THC. THC is what produces the “high” and is addictive, and all the more so as the concentration levels rise. This is not the marijuana of the 60s and 70s that grew naturally with 1-3% THC.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a component of the marijuana plant that is not addictive and doesn’t produce a “high” and there will likely be medicines with CBD on the shelves of regular pharmacies across the nation by early 2018. This is bound to happen without any “medical” marijuana laws because the drug has been researched and is showing efficacy. There may also be medicines coming to pharmacies with THC derived from the marijuana plant, if the medicines are proven to work better than the placebos and do more good than harm. Doctors will be able to prescribe the dosage and strength recommended for their patients’ conditions, and will know the possible drug interactions. This type of basic medication information is unknown when “medical” marijuana dispensaries with budtenders dispense pot products instead of trained pharmacists dispensing proven medicine.

The Coalition agrees that the research starting to happen is long overdue. This movement should continue. Further reduction of unnecessary barriers is needed for FDA approved research of cannabis to produce pharmaceutical grade medicines for children and adults with serious medical conditions. On August 10th of this year the Feds approved new rules to expand legitimate research opportunities by increasing the number of legal grow sites for research-grade marijuana. There is more to be done to increase research, without moving towards legalization. Everyone should be for more research.

There was a study done recently concerning opiate deaths decreasing in states with medical marijuana programs. This is just one study. We need more studies to reach conclusions. The study lumped together states with active medical marijuana programs and states with small ones or ones without programs at all. This needs to be studied more thoroughly.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy did recommend cannabis be rescheduled in 2010, but as more information became available, their recommendation in 2014 was to only reschedule CBD. The new rules announced by the Feds on August 10th will likely help in researching CBD and other components of marijuana. The same ruling by the DEA this summer, kept whole plant marijuana in Schedule I after extensive research using the required exhaustive 8 factor scientific analysis. Schedule I means there is no legitimate medical use (for whole plant marijuana).

We are deeply concerned about Veterans and other people who are committing suicide every day in our country. There are treatments designed to address the root of the problem of PTSD, rather than masking the problem with a drug. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is one of those treatments that those with PTSD are finding truly helps. Earlier this year the DEA did approve a study with whole plant marijuana for Veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD.

People may still wonder why CBD that doesn’t produce a “high” is a concern of our Coalition at all. Why do we care if it is an FDA approved medicine or not? Well, we do care that people with intractable seizures also get safe medicines, but when parents are desperate to save their child or give their child a better quality life, of course we want that for them. The truth is if there was a period at the end of the sentence on this issue, we wouldn’t be talking as much about CBD as a coalition, except to help people. The problem is Big Marijuana is cashing in on legitimately sick people to further their cause for commercialization, first by getting “medical” marijuana accepted in our culture for more and more conditions and wanting more and more THC allowed, and ultimately by profiting on addiction and lining their own pockets.

Marijuana damages young brains similar to the way tobacco damages lungs. Brains are also pretty important. Just because normally healthy people don’t usually overdose and die on it, doesn’t mean it is not harmful. A person is 3 times more likely to develop an opioid addiction if they have a marijuana addiction. Usually this doesn’t mean someone is going to use marijuana instead of opioids. It is often the reverse– they start with using marijuana before trying opioids. The Coalition always tries to focus on the root of the problem that is possible to change.

There are 5 more “medical” states that have placed commercialization of “recreational” marijuana on their election ballots. Their citizens will vote on this in less than a week. Big Money is being poured into those states so that wealthy businessmen can get richer. It’s the kids, the families, and the communities who will pay with more traffic fatalities, less people who can hold jobs, and more people needing treatment. Iowa already has 2726 kids a year (2015 data) between age 12 and 18 in treatment reporting marijuana as their primary substance of choice, and we have nearly the lowest percent of kids in the nation using marijuana. Legalizing doesn’t equal less use. Legal alcohol is still the most abused substance. We have been down a similar road with Big Tobacco more than 50 years ago; now Big Marijuana is employing many of the same tactics. States with legalization of marijuana now have prevention advocates fighting to not allow commercials for marijuana candy edibles to be played during the Super Bowl on TV. Does this sound familiar at all?

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