Editor's note: This article was written by Forsyth Central High School's journalism class in partnership with the Forsyth County News.
By Jaeden Amiri-Owens, Pierce Garramone, Sarina Starling, Baylor Collins
Forsyth County, like virtually every other region in the country, is putting a lot of effort into dealing with drug use among youth.
Numerous independent groups are working to gather information, help addicts with recovery, and prevent youth from starting drugs in the first place.
One such organization is the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council (FCDAC). An independent organization, FCDAC was founded four years ago through a Drug-Free Community Support Program grant, which has been given to 719 organizations around the country, by a small group of proactive residents.
Responsibilities of the council include gathering and analyzing information, running preventative operations, and working with county officials to make anti-drug efforts more effective.
To accomplish this, the council also has several sub-organizations, such as Re:VIVE, which focuses on connecting youth at risk of drug addiction to their peers who have already experienced it. Re:VIVE also hosts speakers on subjects such as long-term recovery, substance abuse prevention and the impact of drug abuse on families.
“I’m so proud to work here,” said Tammy Nicholson, director of the FCDAC since 2016.
Nicholson is one of the organization’s two paid employees. FCDAC consists mainly of 60 volunteers, including medical professionals, law enforcement and concerned parents who, according to Nicholson, “were tired of seeing their kids die.”
The council’s headquarters is in the United Way of Forsyth County building at 240 Elm Street in Cumming. They hold meetings on the first Wednesday of every month, and they invite any interested persons to attend.
“We can always use more people,” said Victoria Ray, a coordinator with FCDAC.
The Forsyth County Schools system is working to combat drug use among the area’s youth.
The school system’s alternative education program Gateway Academy is designed for students struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. A full-time drug addiction counselor assists the program’s 77 students, about half of which are in the recovery process.
Some schools are handing out harsher punishments for vaping/possessing vapes. Starting this school year, students will face up to 10 days of OSS (outside-school suspension) after three offenses of using vapes on school property.
Meanwhile, the Forsyth County government has pushed to restrict access to synthetic drugs that are created specifically to avoid existing laws.