Friday, March 2, 2007

Let?s talk about drugs

Forum provides parents, kids chance to discuss oft-avoided subject

Express Staff Writer

The Community School Middle School Director Nigel Whittington provided a forum for parents and their children to discuss the dangers of drugs. Photo by Trevor Schubert

"The talk" between parents and their children about drugs has for eons been a gap dividing families. The Community School in Sun Valley, along with local law enforcement agencies and the Walker Center, is looking to span that gap.

The Community School Middle School Director Nigel Whittington led a two-pronged discussion on Thursday, Feb. 22, in front of dozens of students and parents.

The first prong included facts about drug use provided by Steve Harkins of the Blaine County Sheriffs Office, Mike Abaid of Sun Valley Police Department and Dayna Barbee from the Walker Center, a drug treatment facility. The other prong constituted time for parents and their children to talk about drugs and the challenges facing kids today.

"I think it is really important to give kids the opportunity to ask questions," said Tracey Caraluzzi, a mother of two children at The Community School. "This gives us the chance to keep it at the forefront of our discussions."

Whittington provided every parent in the audience with drug tests that included a urine testing apparatus.

The home testing kits "gives every kid a way to say 'no' while saving face," Whittington said. "If a child is offered drugs, he or she can decline and say, 'I can't because my parents will drug test me when I get home, and if I test positive my parents said they will call your parents.'"

Harkins and Abaid provided compelling and thought-provoking material for the discussion that followed. Harkins narrated a series of slides that showed what drug use can do to the body and what signs and symptoms parents can look for if they suspect their kids are using drugs.

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant and one of the fastest growing problems facing Harkins and his drug enforcement team. Meth use was a focus of his presentation.

"Meth use is dramatically on the rise, and it's a terrible drug," Harkins said while an image of an addict's "meth mites" evoked a chorus of groans from the audience. Meth mites are skin lesions that occur on an addict as the body attempts to process the harsh chemicals in the drug.

"A lot of the crimes in the valley begin with drug use," Harkins said.

Abaid, who is a K-9 officer, provided parents in the audience a last resort if they suspect their child is using drugs.

"I have had requests from parents to bring the dog into their house," Abaid said.

He did, however, warn parents of the consequences of this approach.

"If the amount of drugs is in the misdemeanor range, we can use discretion, but if we find a felony amount we will have to bring charges," Abaid said. "This is something to keep in mind."

Barbee, of the Walker Center, aims to provide treatment to people battling drug addiction.

"We work with kids in groups—the strongest force in their lives at this point are their peers," she said. "Although parents are the first line of defense."

On April 19, a similar program will be hosted by the Blaine County School District, so all who live in the Wood River Valley can receive the same information. For additional information, including the yet-to-be-determined time, contact Harkins at 788-5515 or the Blaine County School District at 578-5000.

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