On Wednesday night, the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council hosted its 11th drug summit at the Forsyth County Conference Center, with a host of different groups and speakers that presented on a wide range of different topics like drugs, vaping, addiction, recovery and support.
According to drug summit organizer and Forsyth County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, for the 11th summit, the group wanted to highlight the work that has been done in the community over the last six years, titling the summit, “11 Reasons Why.”Mills said that the 11 different speakers and groups they gathered for the summit showed the community why they continue to fight for drug and alcohol awareness and what good has come out of that fight.
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"You can look at that from a lot of different angles; 11 reasons why we are active in this, why have a drug summit, why have a drug council, why has our county collaborated with all these different resources to make our community be more educated," she said.
Speakers at the event included Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who congratulated Forsyth County on its efforts to fight drug abuse; Dr. Justine Henao of Northside Forsyth, who spoke about the cold hard facts of vaping and e-cigarettes; and Lt. Mike McCarron of the Johns Creek Alpharetta Forsyth County Drug Task Force, who talked about what the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office and other authorities are doing locally to enforce drug laws.
Other groups featured at the summit include:
Parent Recovery Network: The Parent Recovery Network (PRN) is an anonymous support group for parents with children that are in long-term recovery or dealing with substance abuse issues.
Started in 2014, the group formed after several mothers whose children were dealing with drug abuse issues realized that they were sharing common experiences and wanted a place to talk and connect.
"We are there to support the parents and help them navigate through this journey," said Jay Posey, a representative from the program.
PRN meets weekly at The Connection, 608 Veteran’s Memorial Boulevard, Cumming, on Thursday from 7-9 p.m.
Find out more by contacting PRN at email@example.com or by calling 470.253.8564.
C.H.A.M.P.S. (Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety): Cpl. Angela Lively of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office spoke to the crowd about the C.H.A.M.P.S. program, which allows Forsyth County deputies to go into elementary and middle school classrooms to talk about drug, alcohol and tobacco awareness, and the choices and consequences they might face in the future.
"We as C.H.A.M.P.S. instructors are talking to your kids about the things that nobody else really wants to talk about," Lively said.
Lively said that the C.H.A.M.P.S. program is currently at 15 elementary schools and five middle schools in Forsyth County, and deputies go into the classrooms about once a month.
T.I.P. (Teen Interception Program): The Teen Interception Program is a free seven-week drug education program that is held by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office aimed at “saving teen lives and redirecting them to make better decisions.”
According to Page Cash, who leads the program, T.I.P. takes teens on an intense tour through the possible outcomes of drug use and poor decision making, giving them an inside look at the Forsyth County Jail, homeless camps in Atlanta and a local funeral home, with many testimonials from individuals who have made the same choices.
"We all know that facts are facts, and they change, but nobody can argue with a testimony, nobody," Cash said.
T.I.P. classes are held once a week at the Public Safety Training Center, 3520 Settingdown Road, Cumming.
For more information and how to register, visit www.forsythsheriff.org/site-page/tip/ or email Cash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gateway counseling: From Gateway Academy, one of the Forsyth County school system’s alternative learning programs for students who have had a code of conduct violation, Principal Drew Hayes and school counselor Mitch Durdle spoke to the crowd about the drug and alcohol counseling that is happening at the school.
Hayes said that over 50% of the students that come to Gateway do so because of a drug, alcohol or vaping offense on a campus in Forsyth County.
Through help from community stakeholders, Gateway was able to secure funding for a nearly-full-time drug counselor (Durdle) to help their students and monitor and support them after they have left the school.
FCDAC Youth Council: Two student leaders from the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Youth Council spoke about specific clubs that they had started in their respective schools to combat substance abuse by high school students, using anti-abuse posters, real-life examples and inspirational talks.
"We are constantly bombarded by social media with the effects of drugs and alcohol,” said Claire Tran, a Pinecrest Academy student, while talking about her club Prevent Substance Abuse (PSA). “We want to inform students about the negative physical and mental effects that drugs have in our lives."
Saesha Kapoor, co-president of the “Be Smart, Don’t Start” club at South Forsyth High School, said that she didn't realize how important drug awareness efforts were until she got to eighth grade and saw that students really were doing drugs and they weren't going away.
"By eighth grade, there were drug raids taking place in our middle school, something that shocked us all,” she said. “Now it is no longer shocking, but considered normal to hear about vaping, overdoses and drug raids."
The Connection: Catherine Rosborough, director and founder of The Connection, spoke to the crowd about the work that they do in the community providing support for those dealing with addiction.
"I'm here tonight to represent the hope for recovery," Rosborough said. "We want you to know that there is hope, there's hope on the other side."More information about The Connection can be found by visiting www.theconnectionforsyth.org.