Keeping tobacco, alcohol and drugs away from children is a nonstop initiative.
And it requires families, support groups, local agencies and mental health care centers to take a stand against negative influences.
“We want as many people interested in creating a healthier and safer community … as possible,” said Nikki Malott, of the Youth Services Alliance and Drug-Free Communities project and Local Coordinating Council coordinator. “We need more people helping to build up our youth.
“We need a community that really rallies around positivity to make a big change.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15% of high school students have used certain illicit or injection drugs, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or ecstasy in the past year. In addition, 14% have claimed to misuse prescription opioids.
Many students turn to drugs because of family issues, such as parents who have a history of drug abuse or a lack of parental monitoring, the CDC reports. Similarly, some youth pick up bad habits due to mental health struggles or a lack of school connectedness.
And COVID-19 has only made matters worse.
Because people have been forced to spend hours alone — more so than in previous times — the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, has found that youth were opting to abuse marijuana during solitary times in 2020. Others — at least 31.6% — were abusing drugs with peers via technology.
Recognizing that youth are becoming creative in their ways to abuse drugs shows the depth of the seriousness of this situation. And that’s why Malott wants to keep getting the word out, alerting the community of ways to step up and protect younger generations.
While more information will be released next month, Malott said there will be an upcoming Overdose Awareness event, and area schools will be participating in Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23-21. Caston, Logansport, Lewis Cass and Pioneer will provide various prevention activities, while Partners for a Drug-Free Cass County will hold a contest for students, she said, adding that elementary students will compete in a poster contest, junior-high students will work on essays and high-schoolers will be able to create and submit billboard signs.
Dave Wegner, Cass/Pulaski Community Corrections director, has a group of individuals who will judge the events and declare the winners.
Malott said those winners will be announced and receive an invitation for a Red Ribbon Breakfast, which will be attended by Mayor Chris Martin and members of the Logansport Police Department and Cass County Sheriff’s Department. The student winners also will receive a certificate and gift cards.
“This year, the winning high school design will be used as a billboard to represent the Partners for a Drug-Free Cass County,” said Malott. “This is a collaborative effort between the schools and the Partners for a Drug-Free Cass County group.”
But having other organizations take part in events that support the youth is just as important, according to Malott, who acknowledged the success that can happen when a community comes together.
“We had the Diversity Club, Art Club, Partners for Drug-Free Cass County, Revolution Community Church, Youth Services Alliance, (the) Sherriff’s Department, Four County, Area Five, the YMCA, 4th Dimension Recovery, Woodbridge, Emmaus, Juvenile Probation, Kiwanis, Cass County Art Alliance, Logansport police and fire departments, (and) the Grace Scott Band” participating in the September Social gathering at Revolution Community Church, Malott said. And because these groups showed up, they left a positive impact on the youth.
“It was a great event,” Malott said, adding that it would not have been possible without the volunteers. “Especially those at Revolution,” she said. “They opened up their facility to us to use and had many members volunteer. There was free food, inflatables, a dunk tank that the LPD was in, the Smoke house, an obstacle course from the YMCA and a member of the Cass County Art Alliance doing Caricatures (Sienna Urbina).”
The Diversity and Art Club from Logansport High School was there helping kids do activities, said Malott. And a game show was held in the auditorium with a rock-climbing wall for the younger kids. A fencing demonstration was done by Jason Mitchel and Eric Regan. “It was a great time,” she said.
The youth learned that there are many ways to have fun — ways that don’t include drugs and alcohol.
Yet, to keep pushing the message of “rising above the influence,” Malott would like to have other businesses and organizations join the cause. “We need opinions. We need help with the different initiatives we hope to do.”
Anyone interested in connecting with Youth Services Alliance and Drug-Free Communities projects may send an email to Malott at firstname.lastname@example.org.