Anti-drug program set for county

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2004

There's no denying the fact a drug problem exists in Covington County. A simple look at any given week's news reports will solidify that statement. A look at the list of incarcerated at the Covington County Jail will also affirm that statement.

With this problem, the growing question is, "What can be done?"

On February 24 and 25, a special program will attempt to answer that question for parents, teens, and other concerned citizens.

Operation Save Teens is a special presentation that seeks to educate people on drugs and the lifestyle that surrounds them.

Begun in January 2001, Operation Save Teens was started by Agent Mike Reese of the Calhoun-Cleburne Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, and Lt. Andy Hardy of the Alabama ABC. The pair initiated the program after becoming frustrated at the number of teen-agers in trouble with drugs. Carol Hudson later joined the group after she lost her son, Anthony, to illegal drug use.

The program, which will be presented to parents and other concerned citizens, will be held at two different locations - in Opp at the OMS Multi-purpose room at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 24, and then in Andalusia on Wednesday, February 25, at 6:30 p.m. in the AHS Auditorium.

It is sponsored locally by the Covington County Children's Policy Council, headed by Juvenile Court Judge Frank "Trippy" McGuire. McGuire said the program is an informative program that has been described as "powerful."

"It is a two-hour show that has some videos and slides from parties called 'raves', and it shows what goes on during Spring Break when teens may not think adults are watching," he said. "Some of the videos the program contains are actually videos that were seized during drug busts and raids. I haven't seen the program, but I've been told the best word to describe it is powerful. Some of the people who have participated in one of the sessions have been shocked at what they've seen."

The reason so many have been shocked at this presentation? It shows, not through actors - but through real life situations - the events and effects of drug usage.

Containing "rave party" footage, teens can actually be seen foaming at the mouth and passed out, losing control of their faculties and bodily functions due to drug usage.

"This is not suitable for anyone under the seventh grade age," McGuire said.

Bringing the program to Covington County has been a goal of the Children's Policy Council for quite some time, and McGuire said students will have the opportunity to view and participate in the presentation.

"Opp High School, Andalusia High School, and Straughn High School will all be presented the program," he said. "It's will be presented to Opp students the morning of Feb. 25, and to AHS and SHS students on Feb. 26. We will be showing the program to the kids during school, so we're trying to get the word out to parents now that they can see the presentation beforehand. We strongly encourage all parents to come and view the presentation."

One of the reasons parents are so strongly encouraged to watch is because of Hudson.

"Carol Hudson was one of those mothers who said 'It can't happen to my child,' but it did," McGuire said. "She knows that if it could happen to her, it can happen to anyone.

"She will go into detail about warning signs to look for, the different types of peer pressure facing teens, and what happens when teens become involved with drugs," McGuire continued. "She's speaking from first-hand experience."

Although the program deals a lot with drugs teens encounter in clubs and at parties, it has practical applications to teens in Covington County.

"We're fortunate that we don't have as big a problem with the designer drugs that other areas have," McGuire said. "At least not that I'm aware of. However, it could happen here, and we want to prevent it."

And while club and designer drugs aren't as big of an issue in Covington County, the practical applications of the program can be applied to Covington County's main teen drug problem - alcohol.

"Alcohol tends to be the leading drug problem among teen-agers in Covington County," McGuire said. "The program will deal with that. But, it's just important that parents come and attend this program."