Marion is a city in and also the county seat of Williamson County, in the state of Illinois, in the United States of America. The population was 17,193 at the 2010 census as reported by the United States Census Bureau. It is part of a dispersed urban area that developed out of the early 20th Century coal fields and into the pleasant and quaint city that it is today.
Today, Marion serves as the largest retail trade center in Southern Illinois with its central location along Interstate 57 and Illinois Route 13, (colloquially known as Southern Illinois’ “Main Street”). It is also the home to the Illinois Star Centre mall and the Southern Illinois Miners baseball team, and is in the process of being selected for Illinois’ first STAR Bonds District for the proposed Boulder Creek at The Hill development. The city, though it is not huge itself, still acts as a major hub for that entire section of the state.
The recent Great Recession of 2007 through 2009 impacted Marion in lower sales tax revenues for the city as well as the loss of a Circuit City distribution center, and a proposed second distribution center for another major big box retailer that had never formally been named. The city really did take a huge blow from that recession, and it is still recovering today.
Retail sales also suffered as the recession dragged out, which was to be expected. Collected sales tax grew 2.9 percent in 2008 compared with the year before, but growth slowed in 2009 with only a 0.7 percent increase all in all. By 2010 the forward momentum ceased and sales tax collections actually dropped 1/10th of a percent total. Then, in 2011, January collections (representing December sales), grew by 3/10ths of a percent and February improved by 2.4 percent. So the city is coming back from it all, but the growth is slow and crime rates are still high, particularly with drug-related crime.
Marion still has a lot going for it though. Downtown Marion is home to the Little Egypt Arts Gallery operated by the Little Egypt Arts Association as well as the Williamson County Historical Society museum and the Marion Carnegie Library to boot. The major arts and culture institution though is the Marion Cultural and Civic Center, which attracts thousands annually.
Just as the case with many other cities in Illinois thanks to an addiction epidemic in Chicago, Marion too has begun to feel the effects of a rising tide of substance abuse and drug addiction amongst its residents. Unlike in Chicago though, where prescription drug abuse rules the day, Marion has been hit the hardest with an increase of meth trafficking through the once relatively drug-free city, causing a lot of the residents, mainly the young adult residents, to become hooked on this very dangerous and deadly drug. Marion is not the only city though that is suffering in this way. Truth be told, a lot of other cities in rural Illinois are falling prey to meth problems too. Here’s what the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, (NSDUH), had to say about meth abuse and its prevalence in the nation today, particularly in Midwestern states like Illinois:
Obviously these statistics spread a lot of concern and alarm on to the issue. Whatever then can be done about it? Now more than ever, Marion needs to be thinking with rehabilitation approaches for their addicted residents. So far law enforcement in Marion has been trying to prevent meth from getting into the city, which is good. However, prevention is only half the battle if that. What’s really needed is a much more bone-deep, involved handling, the kind of handling that can only be accomplished by the effective rehabilitation of every single individual in Marion who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, whether meth is their drug of choice or not. If this is done and it is done quickly, then the problem will cease to exist.
Inpatient rehab centers, (of which there are many in the area and in the surrounding states), offer the best services imaginable when it comes to addiction treatment. That being said, it’s more important that the residents of Marion worry about actually getting their addicted fellows into the center than worry about what will happen afterwards. It’s important though that these residents be convinced because the very future of the city dependents upon it. If this not done, then the addiction problem will only get much worse long before it gets any better.
Now is the time for Marion to make a change. With a combination of prevention and rehabilitation both, this city can get back its sober, drug-free self in no time at all.
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