New C.O. coalition targets youth substance abuse

Goal is to encourage drug-free youth

Bend group targets youth substance abuse

BEND, Ore. - It's a statistic nobody is proud of: Youth in Deschutes County say they are using drugs and alcohol more than in most other Oregon communities. A new coalition is hoping to change that.

The survey statistics show substance abuse is higher for Deschutes County 11th graders than the state average.

But the new community group is hoping to see healthy and prosperous youth in our community who are drug-free.

A 2012 Oregon Student Wellness Survey shows in the the past 30 days, 11th grade students in the county say they have had at least one drink of alcohol, have been binge drinking or used marijuana.

"I have seen prescription medication abuse," Bend Police School Resource Officer Amy Ward said Wednesday. "I've seen alcohol abuse, and also a rise in juveniles that are under the influence of marijuana or in possession of marijuana. I spend most of my time in the schools during the school year, so I definitely see that happening in my schools."

Ward is excited about a new Bend area coalition of law enforcement, business professionals and school officials, among others.

"We hope to have broad representation and different sectors of the community to really help guide our interventions in all of our work we do," said Nick Stevenson, the community project coordinator.  

The Bend Area Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition will try its best to reduce youth drug and alcohol abuse through community education.

"It takes a collective effort, and so having parents, law enforcement, schools, the faith community, youth being involved in something together makes it meaningful for a community," said Prevention Coordinator Jessica Jacks. "I'm really excited about the work that can be done."

Ward says many parents don't know that currently students can't be issued an MIP simply for being under the influence of a controlled substance, they have to have it in their possession, unlike alcohol. 

She hopes legislation will mean similar consequences for dangerous behavior.

"If we can get that in place, to use that as another tool for prevention and routing that youth into better resources or resources that would have been available for the parent seeking that out," Ward said.

Anyone is welcome to join the coalition.,If you would like more information, Nick Stevenson at 541-322-7534.

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