Pubdate: Wed, 03 May 2006
Source: Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2006 Lake of Two Mountains Gazette Ltd.
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


Hudson - If there was one message that came out of the Community Cares
meeting held Wednesday night at the Hudson Community Centre, it was
the importance of continued parental and community involvement when
dealing with drug prevention amongst teens. There was a certain irony
in this given the empty seats in the front rows, but nonetheless the
audience of parents, teens and school staff were provided with lots of
valuable information coming from a variety of perspectives.

Organized and moderated by Parks and Recreation Director, Mike
Klaiman, representatives from the Lester B. Pearson School Board,
Westwood Senior High School Student Life Group, the CLSC, and Portage
each spoke in turn to give their respective messages on how to prevent
and deal with teen drug use.

"Josh", a 16 year old from Newfoundland in the Portage drug treatment
program bravely recounted his personal descent into drugs and his
climb back out.

Describing how despite living in a stable, loving family, and always
doing well in school, he began smoking marijuana at the end of Grade 8
because, as he put it, the friends he was doing drugs with "accepted
me." From there, he quickly developed a regular habit of using
prescription pills, cocaine, speed and ecstasy. Before he knew it, he
was addicted and stealing money from his family. "I didn't care who I
was hurting," he said.

Even when his parents insisted he get help, he resisted. While in the
Portage program, on his first visit back home, he relapsed by sniffing
gas. His drug use also caused memory problems and he has had to
undergo cognitive retraining therapy to help undo some of the damage
that occurred.

Through the support he received at Portage, his life began to change.
"I started seeing how I was hurting myself and my family," he said.
With an 84 percent average on his last report card, he now has plans
to go to University. "I'm a different person now," he said, expressing
that he feels more confident and now envisions a future for himself.

His parents pushing him to go to Portage was a good thing even if he
wasn't ready to admit he had a problem. His message to parents and
teens was to get help if a problem is suspected. "Use whatever help is
around," he said.

Both Micheline Pilon, a nurse, and Caroline Longtin, a social worker,
wanted to get the word out that the CLSC Vaudreuil-Dorion is one of
those sources of help that is available to both children in school and
families in the community. Acknowledging that their services are not
well known, Longtin informed the audience that there is confidential,
7 day, 24 hour emergency service that, at the very least, is able to
provide appropriate referrals or resources depending on the situation,
whether it is a crisis with a teenager or a case of domestic violence.
Theirs is a role of prevention so, in terms of intervention "the
younger the child is, the easier it is," Longtin said.

Because the school board has an agreement with the CLSC, teachers can
make a request for a social worker to become involved in the case of a
particular child having serious difficulties, either behaviorally,
socially, or academically. For a social worker to begin an
intervention plan or program requires parental consent. But, to really
help a child, she said, "Parents implication is the key."

Viviane Briand, Drug Education Consultant with the Lester B. Pearson
School Board wanted to bring her message closer to the people.
Shunning the microphone and her seat, she stood in between the empty
front rows and gave the audience a wealth of practical, down-to-earth

"Drug abuse," she began, "is not a personal issue, nor is it a family
issue, but a much broader social issue. That's why we have to look at
broad-based solutions."

Drugs are and always have been a part of every culture and the school
is but a microcosm of the larger society, she said. It is important to
keep things in perspective and to realize that the majority of
teenagers, even if they do experiment with drugs, do not end up having
serious problems, she explained.

In fact, she said, statistics show that there has been a decrease in
rates of smoking, drug use and gambling among teenagers in recent years.

"It's not to minimize the problem," she said, "but we have to look at
it in a balanced way."

Finding this balance means staying involved in teenagers' lives and
giving them unbiased, accurate information.

"They still need you there even if they don't want you there," she

But scare tactics don't work either.

"If the information is dramatized, kids won't listen", she

Information by itself is not enough. Teenagers need to be taught
skills that will help them make good choices. By enhancing
communication, self-esteem and relationship skills, teenagers are
helped to become stronger, more self-confident people.

"Sometimes the best drug prevention is in the way we build skills,"
she said.

Why some kids develop drug problems and others don't is a complex
question that has to do with susceptibility to risk factors, she
explained, that includes the family, the school and the community as a

Protective factors include knowledge and parental involvement. But, in
talking to kids with a "whole stack of negative risk factors", Briand
said, the most important thing they said made a difference was one
individual, be it a parent, coach, neighbor or teacher who believed in
them. "Whether you are a parent or a teacher, if there's one thing I
hope we strive for, it is that drugs are everyone's issue, and so I
hope that we can be that adult."

With that message in mind, three Westwood Senior High students
representing the Westwood Student Life group spoke about their
"Pearson PRO-Active Approach", a community service program involving
local businesses aimed at reducing drug use in school.

Heather Bowser, Kassandra DelGreco and Chloe Stephanik, all Grade 11
students, acknowledged that while they have only been working on their
proposal for the past couple of weeks, they need to get the community
on board for the program to be successful. The group's goal is to set
up a program that would see youth caught doing drugs perform community
service work at local businesses. Their plan is to hold a general
assembly for all community members in the hope of making this a
community-wide initiative and to get as many businesses on board as

Citing statistics Canada figures that revealed 60 percent of students
say drugs are used, kept and sold in their schools, they all said they
felt strongly that drugs have no place in school.

For the Town's part, Klaiman said, this meeting is only a first

"We're going to do our best from the community's perspective," he

The Hudson Teen Centre will look at developing a code of conduct that
teens will have to sign upon entering. Failure to respect the rules of
no violence, no drugs and no alcohol could mean suspension or even
expulsion from the Centre.

SQ officer Ron Hadjian, in attendance of his own volition and not a
panel member, nevertheless generated attention and was asked a number
of questions by parents, including one who wondered where youth were
finding drugs.

Hadjian explained that there is a chain that starts at the bottom with
student dealers and moves up several levels before getting to the
major drug dealers. There is an officer at the East sector station who
devotes all of his time to the problem of drugs in the area. He said
that while there are a lot of good kids in the area, there is a
"little problem in Hudson of 13 and 14 year olds running around at
three or four in the morning."

He also stressed that it is the responsibility of parents and the
community as a whole to act. "If you see something, do something about
it, call us," he said.

When a CTV reporter, complete with cameraman asked the three students
how easy it was to get drugs in their school, Klaiman intervened
quickly telling the reporter that the girls would not be answering
that question.

And when one parent asked several times about the planting of a tree
in honour of Stevie Reilly, one mother, who identified herself as a
member of the school's governing board, responded by saying that the
tree memorial was not to honour her but to remember her.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake