In an effort to combat substance abuse, a group of locals is trying to get ahead of the game by educating and enlightening youngsters.
A three day SAY-IT (Substance Abuse Youth Intervention Teams) training was completed on Friday at Joy Ranch with 14 individuals graduating. The three-day training immersed the representatives of different area agencies who work with youth in ideas to battle drug abuse in the area. But that’s just the beginning.
“What we do is we have three intensive days of training, educating them on the latest research, what science shows to be effective about the disease of addiction, prevention and treatment, strategies and recovery,” said Mark Larson, the Executive Director of Occupational Enterprises and the facilitator and trainer of the SAY-IT team. “We don’t stop with the three days. We’re going to be meeting once a month for a year. Each member will be doing a project in their community and the group as a whole will be doing a project.”
SAY-IT and FACE-IT (Facing Addiction through Community Empowerment and Intervention Teams) are programs developed through a partnership between Duke University and the North Carolina Evidence Based Practices Center. The Twin Counties are the first Virginia location to have a FACE-IT and a SAY-IT team. Larson said the programs are designed to empower communities to become more aware and informed about the issue of substance abuse and addiction and to help lower the stigma and increase awareness and education in the community and organize and empower community members to have a positive impact on the issue.
“We hope this team and other teams in the region will continue to have a large impact on shifting the tide with substance abuse and addiction in Southwest Virginia,” Larson said.
At the graduation, Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner addressed the group, noting that the ideas behind SAY-IT are ideas he believes will work.
“I read some of your materials and the principles and thoughts behind them are spectacular,” Gardner said. “Somebody ought to be selling this is what I’m saying. From my years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of things come and a lot of things go and some of them are completely useless. These are things that, from a personal basis, I know work. Some of the things I saw was training people to see the signs of substance abuse. Teach them what it looks like. Train your people to recognize substances that are abused.”
Gardner said the area is in the grips of a methamphetamine crisis, so the need for intervention at an early age is a must.
Everything we’re dealing with in my county right now is substance abuse related. Every break-in, every sexual assault, every larceny, every single thing is methamphetamines related,” Gardner said. “We can’t get that out enough, for people to understand what is happening right now.”
Gardner said in this case, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.
“I’m a firm believer that anything we can do to catch this problem is worth the trouble,” Gardner said. “Anything we can do to help children is worth the trouble. Anything we can do to correct the problem before incarceration is worth the trouble. We’ve been preaching this for years.”
John Bigger, of the N.C. Evidence Based Practices Center, reiterated Gardner’s point about how getting ahead of the drug abuse problem would have a significant impact on law enforcement in the area.
If you could reduce substance abuse by 10 percent, what would that do to your crime rate?” Bigger asked. “Your projects don’t need to be Academy Award winning projects; just do something. Just have an impact on one person or one group. One project can do that.”
Bigger said it’s just a matter of making sure the people who need the information get it, and that’s where the graduates come in.
“The youth that need to hear this stuff haven’t heard it,” Bigger said. “It’s not complicated but it’s the opportunity to present it to them. This is a youth intervention team. It’s your chance to work with these youth, get their families to buy in, all of those things are going to have an impact.”
The graduates of the SAY-IT program are: Alejandra Silva-Tucci, Dee Amsler, Stuart Cheeks, Pamela Flippin, Rhonda Halsey, Diana Hill, Bobby Jones, Tim Lewis, Judy Matney, Jennifer Burnette, Michelle Sawyers, Regina Snow, Kevin Watson and Jennifer Lowe.