MOUNT GILEAD — Drug and Alcohol Awareness and Prevention Chairman Ben McDay spoke about ways DAAP members like Jodi Hayes of United Way had helped the group and how members could work together.

“Our vision is to have unity in Morrow County and have everyone have a seat at the table. We want to know each other,” said McDay as he encouraged those attending the annual DAAP luncheon to get to know each other.

The luncheon meeting was held at the Mount Gilead First Presbyterian Church and included more than 30 from schools, agencies, law enforcement and media in Morrow County.

DAAP Coordinator Ashley Glass talked about the structure of DAAP, which based some of its goals and objectives on the 2016 Health Assessment of the Morrow County Health Department. The group has aimed at prevention of youth drinking and substance abuse and reducing the amount of alcohol and drugs available from adults.

Glass said that the focus is more on alcohol now, but the group also coordinates with the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office and others on heroin and other drug abuse. The group has helped sponsor the “Hidden in Plain Sight” program with law enforcement and the schools.

Youth alcohol abuse has been targeted since the Morrow County health survey showed that 47 percent of youth have tried alcohol and 14 percent rate themselves in the category of binge drinking. Smokeless tobacco use by Morrow County youth was shown to be much higher than in the state.

Glass said that the statewide coalition has been a part of the training and organization for DAAP since it began a couple years ago. She introduced speaker Brittany Sandidge, the state director for Coalition programs and for Prevention Action Alliance. Sandidge spoke about finding strategies the community can develop to protect youth from the risk factors such as availability of drugs and alcohol.

Some ideas the coalition and DAAP are using is to reduce the availability and to inform and educate youth, parents and adults who work with youth. A big cooperative effort in Morrow County was the take back of drugs this spring with the help of the sheriff’s office.

When risk factors such as lack of parental supervision and availability of drugs and alcohol are reduced, positive and protective factors also need to be supported for youth in the community. That is where after school activities and positive neighborhood connections can make a difference.

Businesses, the courts and local government can change policies and improve the environment to protect youth from drug and alcohol abuse. Consequences for abuse of drugs and alcohol need to be known and enforcement should be firm.

The other guest speaker was Brenda Foor, the Coalition (ADAPT) Director for Columbia County. She has been the head of their program for the past eight years and gave examples of several programs in eastern Ohio that have helped reduce alcohol and drug abuse among youth.

Two of the biggest supporters of the ADAPT program have been the county hospitals and the health department. They have also had much help from law enforcement in using disposal boxes for unused drugs. Their mental health agency and Kent State University branches have also helped in many ways.

Foor was most enthusiastic about working with teen leaders in each of the county school districts. They help with family days and events. All youth in Columbiana County high schools are tested for drugs. It happened little by little, beginning with one school and spreading throughout the county.

Glass was pleased with the feedback she got after the meeting. She said it was a good opportunity to have the state coalition director talk about the structure of the program and inspiring to have Foor talk about her success and gave examples of their work.

“It’s great to have the people at the table to share ideas,” said Glass who volunteers her time for DAAP. “I hope it (DAAP) keeps growing.”

Taking part in the DAAP meeting were, from left, Ashley Glass, DAAP Coordinator; Jodi Hayes, United Way Director; Ben McDay DAAP Chairman and Steve Hedge, Delaware/Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Director. part in the DAAP meeting were, from left, Ashley Glass, DAAP Coordinator; Jodi Hayes, United Way Director; Ben McDay DAAP Chairman and Steve Hedge, Delaware/Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Director.

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel