Center works to slow drug use

By Vickie Snow

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a series of articles dealing with drug abuse in the local area. This article discusses the issue from the counseling/prevention perspective.

Local social workers are confident their actions are placing a positive effect on the problem of drug abuse among young adults.

Denise McClindon, prevention specialist at Ben Gordon Community Mental Health Center, 12 Health Services Drive in DeKalb, said “it is hard to quantify” trends of drug abuse, but said kids are getting more educated about the dangers of drugs.

Prevention might be the answer. “If we don’t know whether it helps, but we don’t think it hurts, then we’re going to keep doing it,” said McClindon, who used to be a high school guidance counselor.

Teaching parents and kids about drugs “helps them feel more powerful about handling the problem rather than feeling it will eat them alive,” she said.

The community center sponsors many programs designed to promote awareness about drugs and their side effects. One program now in effect is a series of lectures entitled “Active Parenting of Teens.” The five-week program is specifically designed for families in recovery, she said.

Other programs in association with elementary schools help raise kids’ self esteem and teach them about peer pressure. The center also contributes to “Students Helping Students,” a nationwide program that involves students getting trained in skills to help other students prevent abuse.

The center is also a sponsor of “Parents in the Middle,” a newsletter that is mailed to every parent of a junior high school student in the county.

The preventive education “indirectly makes a difference … by teaching before some problems can occur,” McClindon said.

Michael Haines, coordinator of Health Enhancement Services at NIU, said “things are getting better and they weren’t that bad to begin with.”

While some law enforcement officials see the opposite occurring, he explained that “unfortunately one’s perspective in defining the problem is often biased by what one sees.” He said law-related task forces “have to work hard to find offenders … DeKalb is small potatoes compared to other areas. The streets aren’t crawling with drug pushers.”

“The greatest gains have been with youth while the least have been with adults. If we solve the adult problem, the youth problem would go away,” Haines said.

College students get “an unfair picture painted of them,” he said, adding that criminally and clinically, they have fewer problems than adults.