Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Just Say `No' to Drugs," born in the Reagan era, took criticism as hollow and simplistic, even when Nancy Reagan adopted it as a crusade.
The slogan stays with us, with the jaded understanding that helping kids say "no" to substance abuse is just part of a successful prevention plan.
The community of Cascade Locks seems to understand the complexity of the occasion. In this edition, reporter RaeLynn Gill describes the community's multi-faceted approach to teaching children about the ills of drugs and alcohol.
Lynae Hansen calls it, fittingly, "a geometric project." Hansen is chair of the Cascade Locks Interested in Kids (CLIK) Coalition, which is spearheading the battle against drug and alcohol abuse.
The challenges are clear for Cascade Locks. The community currently ranks first in the county for unemployment and methamphetamine use among adults alone rose 500 percent between 1997 and 1999. A disproportionate number of youth from the rural town are showing up in the county's teen court for first offenses involving alcohol or drugs. Ten percent of six graders admitted in a recent school survey that they had used alcohol within the past month and 35 percent said they had smoked before reaching 13 years of age. The use of alcohol within a one-month period climbed to 43 percent among eight grade students although tobacco used remained static.
As Gill reports, city leaders, law enforcement officials and area service agencies have joined efforts in education and enforcement.
A $400,000 federal grant will be disbursed over a four-year period through CLIK. Throwing money at a problem won't work, but the federal grant gives the community a chance to spend the money well. They've started by hiring a Community Resource Officer and a Grant Coordinator, who will determine needs and work on creating opportunities for youth.
Citizen participation, as with any issue, is a key in the work of Resource Officer Aaron Jubitz's pending set of neighborhood meetings on combating drug abuse.
Both Jubitz and Grant Coordinator Heather Laurence will be working closely with School Resource Officer Tiffany Hicks, who was also hired last summer with COPS dollars.
One of Hicks' primary roles is to establish a relationship with at-risk students and their families to help keep these children on track and in school.
Combined with efforts on the economic front to bring broadband communications to Cascade Locks -- one of Mayor Roger Freeborn's campaign themes -- and enforcing nuisance violations, these are all hopeful signs for Cascade Locks.
They are matched with downtown beautification efforts in the past year, including the historic mural that graces the Bridge of the Gods abutment.
The key for Cascade Locks is not to stand in place on this issue, but to look upon the solution as one that will come with steady, even slow, yet coordinated movement by all parties.
One immediate way to show support for giving alternatives to youth in Cascade Locks will be to attend Thursday's 7 p.m. basketball tournament between members of the county law enforcement and students in the school's Oregon Student Safety on the Move (OSSOM) chapter. It's a fundraiser for CLIK. The half-time slam dunk competition itself should be worth the admission.
Solving the drug problem is no slam-dunk, but it's events like this tournament that can get the community working together to make things better.