More than 30 people attended last night's Lehighton Area Drug and Alcohol Task Force meeting, called "Straight Talk for Parents," in the Lehighton Area High School auditorium.
Special guest presenter Gregory Schick, of Drug Free Pennsylvania in Camp Hill, was impressed with the turnout.
"This is probably the biggest group we've had all year," Schick, a police officer in York, remarked.
In addition, as the event approached its scheduled 90-minute time limit, fellow Drug Free Pennsylvania presenter Scott Serafini, a father of seven from Harrisburg, asked the audience whether or not they'd like to continue watching and discussing all the presentation slides the pair had yet to show or end the meeting on time. The crowd responded almost in unison that it would like to continue.
"You obviously have a lot of people here in Lehighton who care about their kids," he noted.
Among the topics Schick and Serafini covered were the many stresses today's teens face, the fact that drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, and how prevalent the usage of drugs and alcohol is among teens and preteens.
They also discussed the need for parents, grandparents and other trusted adults to be completely honest when discussing drugs and alcohol with children and to not only explain that drugs shouldn't be used, but also explain in detail why not to use them.
In addition, they noted that children need and want structure, discipline and parameters from adults and that they do, in fact, respect their parents' opinions more than those of their peers.
In an effort to express the importance of one's need to be informed about today's drug culture, the pair handed each audience member a sheet called "Drug Lingo Bingo."
On it, the sheet showed two dozen slang terms used today for different types of street, OTC and prescription drugs.
Members were asked to discuss how many of the terms they knew and if anyone could fill an entire line horizontally, vertically or diagonally to form "Bingo."
To do so meant a person would have to be able to identify at least four or five of the drug terms. Only one person in the audience new full-time Drug and Alcohol Education Prevention Specialist Sean McCarroll, whose office is in the Lehighton Area Middle School could do so.
Comments from the audience included one visitor's thought that children today are not given as many decision-making opportunities and that perhaps this "constant supervision" is at least one factor leading them toward drug experimentation and usage.
"They can't make up their own minds because we haven't taught them to be free," he said.
While some audience members agreed with him, others took a different view and instead blamed lack of supervision at least of some children for current teen drug use and addiction.
The common consensus among the group, expressed by more than one audience member, was that "It takes a village to raise a child."
Before closing the meeting, Tim Tkach, coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction for the Lehighton Area School District, said, "I think everyone in here has been affected by drugs and alcohol, in your family, relative to your family, somehow. We can't sit there and hide and say, 'Oh, no.' … And this thing about 'good kids,' 'bad kids,' they're everybody's kids. … And we have to get off our high horse that it's not our kids or it's not this. It's our job to raise all the kids … And that's what we're trying to say: Don't be afraid; you're not alone. Be that vigilant person ... (because) it could be any of our kids anytime."
After the meeting, lifelong Lehighton resident Ruthann Schlecht said that she came to the meeting because "I know what's happening in Lehighton."
She remarked, "I am an old lady, a housewife … and I'm quite happy where I am in life, but I'm scared for what's going on in Lehighton."
Schlecht added that she has witnessed drug transactions herself.
Later, Tkach, who had been the Lehighton Area High School Principal three years ago when the Drug and Alcohol Task Force was first started, said that the Task Force tries to hold at least two to four public, community meetings a year.
In addition, he added, other programs such as this October's Operation Saturation involve all the school children in K-12. For instance, he noted, there will be a drug and bullying awareness at that Friday night's home football game in October. Plus, various other events are held throughout the year at the different school levels.