Use of legal, illegal substances major concern to health officials
By Logan Hall
The phrase, “Just say no to drugs,” seems to be easier said than done for many people throughout the world. In the Ojai Valley, drug abuse is a constant issue. Over the years, Ojai has seen many of its residents — especially the valley’s youth — succumb to the pitfalls of drug abuse. Many times, the sacrifice has been death and the devastation that it leaves with family, friends, and the community as a whole. Friends and families of addicts can often feel helpless when trying to figure out the best way to approach the situation.
The Alcohol and Drug Program, part of Ventura County’s Behavioral Health Program, will hold a meeting in Ojai at Chaparral Auditorium on Wednesday at 6 p.m. to help educate the community about the ongoing issue of drug use involving the valley’s young citizens. According to the ADP, the meeting will be geared toward educating the community about drug abuse and the causes that lead to it. The focus will be directed toward parents and how they can help their kids find other ways to deal with the negative aspects of life.
“We are going to explore with parents and the community about the risks and realities of substance abuse,” said ADP’s division manager Patrick Zarate. “Studies indicate that parents are the primary source of direction and influence that kids receive. Our goal is to raise awareness and get information out there.”
Bruce Gladstone, Ph.D., has years of experience with the valley’s youth, and is no stranger to the issues that kids face every day. While Gladstone believes that town meetings are a good thing for communities, he believes that the issue requires much more. “The problem is systemic,” he said. “We have an epidemic of drug abuse and it’s not going away. The problem is, these people that attend the meetings will take in what they hear, but after awhile, they push the snooze button and go back to sleep.”
Gladstone, who plans on attending the meeting, believes schools need to be more involved in drug prevention and awareness. He agrees that people need to learn how to live life without turning to substance use, but parents shouldn’t be the only source of drug abuse education in a youth’s life. “The key is education on a larger scale,” he continued. “Town meetings are important, but unless it gets into the educational system, not much will change. We need to really teach these kids how to cope with the difficult parts of life without turning to substance abuse. It’s a struggle because a lot of parents don’t have the time, energy or desire to be involved. Some parents have problems with substance abuse themselves. The kids need to know the downfalls of drugs and they need to grow up with that knowledge, starting at an early age.”
The ADP will have experts speak at the meeting, including their prevention manager Dan Hicks, and they expect a broad turnout of people who will represent the Ojai Valley. Ojai Police Chief Chris Dunn will be on hand to represent the law enforcement community. “I want to show support for what they (ADP) are trying to do,” said Dunn. “I will be there to answer law enforcement questions and put out some statistics. I also want to let the community know that we can always be a contact to direct people to the right place if they need help.”
One of the things that attendees can expect is a chance to find out where the local contacts are who can help with drug abuse prevention and education. “The valley has a number of resources that people can access,” said Zarate, “including the Youth Foundation, Safe Coalition and Help of Ojai. We are really targeting parents who want to connect to resources.”
For more information on the ADP go to vchca.org/bh/adp.