Pubdate: Thu, 24 Feb 2005
Source: Fort Pierce Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Kelly Tyko, staff writer
Bookmark: (Youth)


The percentage of Treasure Coast teens reporting recent use of alcohol and 
drugs has dropped slightly in the past four years, but Martin and Indian 
River youths continue to top the statewide average.

St. Lucie County teens are running slightly below the state average, but 
school officials fear cuts in funding for anti-drug programs could lead to 
higher numbers.

The Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey is a collaborative effort of the 
Florida departments of Health, Education, Children and Families, and 
Juvenile Justice, and the Governor's Office of Drug Control. The survey was 
administered to students in grades six through 12.

Last year, 1,101 students participated in Martin County. In St. Lucie, 
1,015 participated and in Indian River County, 1,108. A total of 60,345 
surveys were processed in the state. Students are picked randomly and the 
survey was anonymous and confidential.

The survey focused on asking students whether they used alcohol, tobacco 
and marijuana within 30 days prior to the questionnaire. They were also 
asked if they ever binge drink, which is defined as drinking five or more 
alcoholic beverages in a sitting.

St. Lucie School Board member Kathryn Hensley worries that lack of funding 
for drug and alcohol awareness programs can bring her county statistics up. 
President Bush's proposed education budget for 2006 includes cutting the 
Safe & Drug-Free Schools program.

"We're not getting a lot of help for the future of our children," she said.

Hensley added that through school groups, such as Students Working Against 
Tobacco, students are learning how to make good decisions.

"There's a constant effort to make sure kids understand the effects," she said.

The survey also measures cigarette-smoking among students. Sometimes 
students turn to booze after experimenting with cigarettes.

"Cigarettes are one of those things that's an entry level drug. That's 
usually the first substance that an upper elementary or middle student will 
use," said Robyn Vanover, director of the Safe and Drug Free Schools 
program in Indian River County.

Kids turned to cigarettes less in Martin and St. Lucie counties. After 
seeing a major drop in its 2002 survey, Indian River saw an increase.

About a year ago, Indian River County lost funding for its tobacco 
awareness programs, said Charlene Tardi, Indian River School District's 
director of alternative programs.

"It's unfortunate because it was really effective and something that made a 
difference," Tardi said. "That focus is no longer there and we see an 
increase. That's a shame." All counties admit there is much work to still 
be done after evaluating all the data.


Other Statistics From The 2004 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey

* Using illicit except marijuana: 8.1 percent in Martin County reported 
using one of those substances in the past 30 days of the survey; 7 percent 
in St. Lucie County; 7.6 percent in Indian River.

* Being drunk or high at school: 13.6 percent of Martin County students and 
14.4 percent for both St. Lucie and Indian River counties.

* Sold drugs: 7.6 percent in Martin; 5.2 in St. Lucie; 7.4 in Indian River.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom