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Collaborative attacks major probelms in Carbon

Published December 02. 2010 05:00PM

Members of the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative urged county officials recently to look at a major problem in today's society.

During the meeting of the collaborative on Wednesday, the board asked the Carbon County Commissioners, who were present, if they would formally adopt the collaborative's initiative that states "the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative has confirmed through multiple sources of data and community assessments that behavioral health issues (drugs and alcohol and mental health) among young and families are a severe problem that affects the institutional fabric of our families, schools, and community. We need to address these issues as a disease impacting the body, mind, and relationships, and eliminate the stigma associated with these illnesses. We are committed to challenge all members of the community to come together to help combat these issues to promote a healthy and productive community."

Jeanne Miller, co-chairperson of the collaborative, presented the commissioners, as well as state Rep. elect Doyle Heffley and representatives from state Sens. Robert Casey and David Argall's offices, with a PowerPoint presentation of "The State of the Child and Family in Carbon County." This presentation provided numerous statistics on the problems this county faces with children using drugs and alcohol; the successes the collaborative has had since its inception in 2002; the results the early prevention programs are having on today's youth and families; and the goals that have been set to create a strong support system that offers services and programs to children and families in need.

She illustrated some of the problems that the county has had for years through the results of a drug and alcohol survey that was completed in 2009 and 2010. The confidential survey asked 3,000 sixth through 11th grade students about their experiences with drugs and alcohol. The results showed that there were hundreds of students that were using drugs, tobacco or alcohol at a very young age.

Miller pointed out that a large number of students have not tried drugs, tobacco or alcohol and these students need to be utilized to help combat the problem.

She then talked about the conclusions the collaborative reached through the data that has been collected through various sources. They include finding ways to build meaningful relationships between children and educators; get behaviorial health counseling for children and families in every school district; and improve the overall community health and provide avenues to engage families.

Miller also explained that since the collaborative started, the group has brought in over $4 million in funding for programs that provide children age zero to high school with the building blocks they need to succeed in education and build strong relationships within the family.

She noted that it is getting harder to operate some of these programs because funding is an issue. The board would like to expand some programs, like the SHINE After-School program into the Palmerton and Weatherly Area school districts, but cannot due to lack of funding.

She asked officials to look into ways the collaborative could receive funding.

The board then held a discussion about their initiatives and find solutions to meet their goals. Numerous members spoke up about what they feel needs to be done to meet the collaborative's goals.

Following the presentation, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, who also co-chairs the collaborative, asked for the board to officially adopt the collaborative's position on drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The motion passed unanimously.

He then announced that the next collaborative meeting will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 9. Special guests will be the North Schuylkill Drug and Alcohol Task Force. They will talk to the group about what they are doing to combats drugs and alcohol in their area.

Following the meeting Commissioner William O'Gurek said he was very surprised by the statistics Miller and the collaborative presented to them.

He said that the board of commissioners will look at ways to help the collaborative and will plan to adopt a resolution on the county-level, using the collaborative's formal statement.

"I think we need to be involved and be proactive with this group," O'Gurek said. "I think today really pointed the problems that are tearing families apart. Our job now is to be proactive and find ways to combat these issues."

He talked about the funding problem that everyone is facing and said that new avenues for funding will need to be found.

Heffley also commented on the presentation, stating that he felt it was very informative.

The Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative is a board created by Partners for Progress as a way to help children and families. The collaborative is made up of various county agencies, law enforcement officials, school districts, court officials, hospital administration, nurses, and more.

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