By LEANN BURKE
“We understand that we must say no, but it’s an entirely different situation when you’re in that situation. Help us say no.”
“What adults should understand about teen substance abuse is that teens do it for the same reasons adults do.”
“Some parents are OK with their kids using certain substances, and I believe that’s the root of the problem.”
These are just three of several quotes about substance abuse from Dubois County teens that Dubois County CARES — Coalition for Adolescent Resilience and Empowerment Strategies — shared at the kickoff meeting Tuesday.
Dubois County CARES unites concerned adults and organizations, such as the Dubois County Health Department and the county’s four school districts, to curb drug and alcohol use and abuse in teens. The coalition held its first meeting in 2015 and last year won a $625,000 Drug Free Communities grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will be administered in $125,000 increments every year for five years, and Dubois County CARES must match the funds with monetary or in-kind donations.
“They’re giving us money; they need to see that the community supports this,” said Jane Chappell, a founding member of the coalition and member of the finance committee.
While the kickoff meeting included a callout for new members and donations, presenters focused on arming those in attendance with information about local drug and alcohol use in teens.
Statistics were gathered in the Indiana Youth Survey that is administered annually to students in all four school districts. According to the 2017 results, 33 percent of county seniors and 27 percent of juniors reported using alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey. The county also reported rates of use above the state average for heroin and cocaine among eighth graders, alcohol and binge drinking among juniors and seniors and electronic vapor products (e-cigarettes) among sophomores, juniors and seniors.
“We feel Dubois County has a long history of work hard, play hard,” said Paige Mundy, coalition chairwoman and social worker for the Northeast Dubois School Corporation. “Alcohol is usually a part of that.”
The 2017 survey also found that just shy of 80 percent of the county’s teens don’t believe their parents or other adults care if they drink and that some adults will provide alcohol as long as the teens stay in the home. The coalition is joining national movements “Talk. They Hear You” and Parents “Who Host, Lose the Most” to combat both those beliefs.
“Talk. They Hear You” encourages parents to talk to their teens about alcohol and offers conversation guidelines for parents who don’t know where to start. Resources can be accessed at underagedrinking.samhsa.gov.
“Parents Who Host, Lose the Most” focuses on teaching adults the consequences of allowing teens to drink on their property. If teens are caught drinking at a house, the parents can be charged with a misdemeanor and incur a fine. If a teen leaves the property and is in an accident or causes other damage, the parent who hosted could be charged with a felony and face jail time. More information for this movement can be found at preventionactionalliance.org.
Members of Dubois County CARES know they have their work cut out for them, but they hope to make a cultural change within the county through education and outreach.
“(Today) is about starting a very slow process,” Chappell said. “This is not about not drinking. It’s about dealing with the reality of how it occurs.”
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