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Creation of new drugs, alcohol, mental health preventive programs discussed

Published August 13. 2010 05:00PM

A Carbon County collaborative hopes to use a school-based drug and alcohol study to create new preventive programs to combat a rising trend.

During the meeting of the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative, the board discussed the results of the 2009-2010 youth alcohol, tobacco, and other drug survey, which was completed by 3,109 students in various schools. Students ranged from sixth grade and younger to 11th grade.

Jeanne Miller, co-chairperson of the collaborative and director of Carbon and Schuylkill County Educational Services at Lehigh Carbon Community College, said the results were similar to last year's survey.

Both surveys showed that drugs and alcohol are being tried by students in all surveyed grades.

Miller said the results of this survey; as well as other studies that have been completed within the county, show that drugs and alcohol, mental health and behavioral health issues are a countywide problem that need to be addressed.

"These are not a school district issue, community issue or family issue, they're a county issue," she said.

Miller then asked the board what can be done to address and adequately mitigate the problems that are on the rise.

The board talked about various issues that are being seen in today's society.

Joseph Greco, community based probation officer at Carbon County Juvenile Probation, said that instead of looking at the problem as a whole, officials are dealing at only parts of the problems

"It's (the problems) not being addressed," he said. "It's being overlooked and not being dealt with as a whole problem."

The collaborative then issued a statement, saying, "As a collaborative we need to find way to get a plan to start addressing this (drugs and alcohol in schools; as well as mental and behavioral health issues) and build awareness. It's not one institution's problem. It's multi-institutional. It's affecting the health of our families. It's showing up in all kinds of data. This board is acknowledging the problem at hand and plans to look at ways that this county can address it."

The 2009-2010 youth alcohol, tobacco and other drug survey is the second survey issued through the schools. Last year marked the first year this data was collected from the students in Carbon County.

The survey asks questions about using drugs, tobacco, and alcohol; when and why the student started using these substances; how often they use it; how they obtain it; and more.

Over the last few years, the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative has worked to find ways to help children and families build stronger relationships through programs from birth until middle-school aged.

In a related matter, the collaborative plans to utilize the results of the survey in its application for a Safe Schools, Healthy Students grant. They plan to address the drug, alcohol and mental and behavioral health issues in the application.

The board applied twice before but was not selected as a recipient of the four-year $1.5 million grant. Last year, the group's application missed the cutoff for funding by just two score points.

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