Pubdate: Sat, 29 Jan 2005
Source: Andalusia Star-News (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Andalusia Star-News
Author: Kim Henderson
Bookmark: (Youth)


A matter of life or death.

That's what a lack of education about the dangers of drugs and drug
use could literally lead to, explained Hannah Merrell, executive
director of the Covington County Children's Policy Council.

The council, for the second year, will sponsor a program for parents
and community members entitled Operation Save Teens.

"Being uneducated about drug use can be a matter of life or death when
it comes to our children and that is why we are urging Covington
County citizens to come out and better equip themselves with the
knowledge to help battle our county's drug problem," Merrell commented.

Operation Save Teens will be presented on Tuesday evening, February 8
at 6:30 p.m. at the Dixon Center in Andalusia, and again the following
evening, on Wednesday, February 9, at the First Baptist Church of Opp
Fellowship Center -- also, at 6:30 p.m.

Adults and youth who are in the seventh grade or above are encouraged
to attend. Operation Save Teens may be unsuitable for younger
children, as graphic video and slide presentations concerning drugs
will be shown.

There is no charge for the program, which is aimed largely at
educating teenagers and their parents about drugs.

Alabama educator Carol Hudson will be one of the program's primary

Hudson knows all too well the phrase "Matter of Life or Death,"
because it's much more than a phrase or scare tactic to her. She lost
her teenage son Anthony to illegal drug use and has now made it a
mission to campaign on his behalf so that, hopefully, no other parent
or teen will have to face the same tragedy.

Also speaking during Operation Save Teens will be Alabama ABC Agent
Mike Reese. The agent, according to a release from the Children's
Policy Council, " ... grew frustrated at the increased number of teens
(he) saw as part of (his) law enforcement duty."

Operation Save Teens, Merrell says, will provide parents, teens, and
community members a hard-hitting, first hand look at the realities and
dangers associated with drugs -- ranging from meth to marijuana, club
drugs and others.

"Awareness is key," Merrell noted. "We want to educate parents about
drug use and what the warning signs are, and also about what to do if
there is a problem," she continued.

Members of the 22nd Judicial Drug Task Force, based here in Covington
County, will be on hand during both presentations of Operation Save
Teens. According to Merrell, DTF agents will have tables and displays
set up to let parents and others know, for example, what a meth lab
looks like and what paraphernalia items are used by individuals using

"This is so parents can get a first hand look (at the drugs and what
they're made of)," Merrell explained.

A flyer for Operation Save Teens poses the question, "Who knows more
about drugs ... You or your children?" and a second as well, "What do
pacifiers, surgical masks, Vapor rub and bottled water have to do with

Many people don't know the answer to at least one of those two
questions, or could be wrong if they believe they do.

As Merrell said, education is the key to understanding problems
relating to drugs, drugs themselves and what it takes to prevent an
addiction or get help in the event that someone is experiencing one.

Different drug and addiction treatment centers from this area,
faith-based programs and others, will have representatives on hand
during and after both Operation Save Teens seminars.

"They will be there before and after (the program) to provide
information," Merrell commented, noting that the events are open to
not only parents and teenagers, but also to community members and
those dealing with an addiction.

"Operation Save Teens is open to people suffering from addictions,
anybody really," Merrell pointed out, stipulating once again, however,
that children under the seventh grade age range shouldn't attend
because of the graphic nature of the initiative.

"More than likely, someone around you in your life is suffering from
an addiction. We need to be aware of it, and we need to know what's
going on so we can help."

Methamphetamines will be a large focus of Operation Save Teens, as
that drug, which is so deadly and addictive, has become so pervasive
in Covington County.

"They (your children) experiment with this drug and that's it,"
Merrell remarked. "You may be looking at a child who's facing an
addiction for the rest of their life."

Myriad other drugs will also be discussed, as will the signs, behavior
patterns, effects, deterrents and what parents should tell their
children about drugs and addiction.

District Judge Frank "Trippy" McGuire, who chairs the Covington County
Children's Policy Council, strongly backs this initiative.

"The family and the home are the best lines of defense against all
temptations and there is no substitute whatsoever for parental love
and involvement," Judge McGuire said in a statement regarding
Operation Save Teens.

Hudson and Agent Reese take the program to communities throughout
Alabama annually. This year, secondary schools throughout Covington
County will also get the opportunity to have groups of students take
part in Operation Save Teens.

Merrell said that she and other organizers would like to thank
Andalusia Regional Hospital, the Andalusia Police Department and
Mizell Memorial Hospital for their sponsorships for the two community

For more information on this initiative, contact the local Department
of Youth Services.

Merrell, again, would like to encourage people to attend at least one
presentation of Operation Save Teens.

"This program is absolutely dynamic," the community activist, and
mother herself, said. "I have heard several people say this is one of
the best drug awareness presentations out there," Merrell added. "If
you go, you'd better take a Kleenex because there's usually not a dry
eye in the room."
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