SEPTEMBER IS NATIONAL RECOVERY MONTH, sponsored annually through SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Information on National Recovery Month is available at recovermonth.gov. Related to National Recovery Month and the return to school for most area students, the Alliance for a Drug-Free Shiawassee is offering a parent (adult) information night on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at Owosso High School.
Editors Note: Substance abuse does not discriminate and is an extensive, widespread, complex issue. The morning after this article was written, an Independent Newsgroup employee’s teenage child was approached on social media with a “friend request” by an individual claiming to be a marijuana/drug dealer. The child immediately informed their parent and information connected to that request has been submitted to all appropriate authorities. Ultimately, as many realize, particularly if you are a parent, the need to stay on top of substance abuse trends and be as educated as possible, are worthy considerations.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
The Alliance for a Drug-Free Shiawassee is hosting a parent information night, open to the public, on substance abuse trends in Shiawassee County on Tuesday, Sept. 18 in the Owosso High School auditorium at 765 E. North Street. Doors for the event will open at 5:15 p.m. and adults are encouraged to attend.
The Alliance for a Drug-Free Shiawassee meets monthly throughout the school year at 1025 N. Shiawassee St. in Corunna, and everyone is welcome to attend meetings. Currently, 40 to 60 volunteers attend regularly and participate in one or more exploratory groups aimed to develop an efficient plan to combat the wide-scale issue of substance abuse. The seven exploratory groups include Community Awareness/Education, Parent Education, Youth Prevention, Treatment, Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice, Community Hub (developing the YMCA as a center for recovery activities) and Support Systems. The Alliance recognizes that dealing with the topic of substance abuse in the county is complex, long-term and reliant on strong community and law enforcement participation. “Mobilizing the whole community to create a safe and drug-free environment for our youth” is the tagline utilized by the group and it fully summarizes the intent.
Alliance organizers Marlene Webster and Shelly Ochodnicky, who chairs the group, both recently shared the need for more area business participants, more law enforcement participants, more local funding and parent (adult) volunteers, too. Webster elaborated that each of the seven exploratory groups are working in a positive direction to coordinate their efforts, though sometimes the substance abuse issue is like “a big ball of spaghetti and sometimes you have to figure out which pieces you are going to pull first.”
As the Alliance has been working together, sometimes it becomes obvious that changes in pre-existing plans might need to be altered or changed completely in an effort to formalize methods that will hopefully be far more effective in combating substance abuse.
“We are hoping to raise awareness,” Webster shared in talking about the upcoming information night at OHS. Parents/adults are strongly encouraged to attend, but should understand that the intent of the event is not oriented at kids. Some of the topic material, directed at educating adults, may not necessarily be appropriate for students.
Ochodnicky emphasized that the event is open to all of Shiawassee County, though. She shared that there will be numerous tables set up, representing various organizations, for discussion and also to deliver information throughout that evening, along with several strong presentations. Presenters will include 35th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart*, Shiawassee Sgt. Doug Chapman, prosecuting attorney Deana Finnegan and more.
Some participating organizations include the Shiawassee County Health Dept., DOT Caring Center, Inc., Recovery Pathways, Shiawassee Family YMCA, Reformers Unanimous, Catholic Charities of Genesee and Shiawassee Counties, Great Lakes Bay Health, Shiawassee Health and Wellness, Memorial Healthcare and others.
Don’t think substance abuse is a problem here? Some facts supported through MiPHY (Michigan Profiles for Healthy Youth) at the state level show that one in ten Shiawassee County kids took a prescription drug not prescribed to them in the last 30 days, that one in five binge drank in the last 30 days, that 17 percent of these kids were offered, sold or given an illegal drug on school property in the last year, and many started smoking marijuana at the age of 11. Rapidly becoming more disconcerting is vaping, the use of e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes), which are tobacco-free and so remain unregulated. However, the negative effects of vaping, such as inhaling dangerous toxins, are only beginning to emerge.
For individuals wanting to join the Alliance for a Drug-Free Shiawassee, please email Marlene Webster at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the parent information night on Tuesday, Sept. 18 from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., please contact the Shiawassee Family YMCA at (989) 725-8136. YMCA CEO Laura Burroughs is active with the Alliance.
*The Honorable Matthew Stewart helped establish drug court in Shiawassee County in 2016. At that time, Shiawassee County had been one of seven counties in the state that did not have a drug court. Stewart had already made drug court a goal upon taking his seat in the county courthouse as 35th Circuit Court Judge in 2015.