$650K to combat pot, pills

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Covington County Children’s Policy Council Coalition is expanding its effects to combat marijuana and prescription pill abuse in the county, thanks to a five-year, $650,000 grant.

The grant, which is administered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will give the organization $125,000 per year.

This is the second time the organization has received the grant.

“The next five years we are concentrating our efforts on marijuana and prescription pill abuse,” director Susan Short said. “Marijuana’s perception of risk is going down, and usage is going up.”

Short said they are not focusing on alcohol with this grant.

However, they will continue to use the SPG-SIG or Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant for that program.

Short said the SAMHSA drug free communities grant will also allow them to continue the peer helper programs at all six high schools.

The peer helper program includes 150 youth from throughout the county.

“They go into our middle school and they tell why they have chosen not to use drugs and alcohol,” Short said. “They also mediate. The kids know what their particular needs are at each school, and no peer helper program is the same.”

Short said since the implementation of the peer helpers program, PRIDE survey results have gotten better.

“They do what’s called Get Real in which they go over closely the results of the PRIDE survey and find positive data that they send to us.”

Short said they in turn print large posters, which serve as small billboards to offer positive reinforcement for those who have chosen not to use drugs.

Short said Pride results show a significant decrease in drug and alcohol use at Andalusia High School in 2013 and at Opp High School in 2014.

Additionally, Ronda Ricks, of the YES program, and Paul Adams, assistant district attorney, have attended training programs in which they learned that there are studies that link marijuana use to lower IQs, Short said.

Former District Judge Trippy McGuire, who currently serves as the chairman of the CCCPCC said the program would be more effective at attacking marijuana use.

“It’s permeated our society, and marijuana dulls our minds,” he said. “We have a marijuana culture. When I was growing up it was about achievement. We used to be concerned with hit the high marks, but now we are trying to avoid going below the bar.”