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Drug abuse prevention program to be held at Pine Island school

January 9, 2013
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

Busey Bank is sponsoring a Family Prevention Meeting this month at Pine Island Elementary School to educate both the youngsters and parents about prescription drug abuse prevention.

Deborah Comella, Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida executive director, said this is the first time they have held a meeting of this kind at Pine Island Elementary School.

"We are working to get more out into the neighborhoods," she said.

Lee County School Board Chairman Mary Fischer said after they received comments from citizens on Pine Island who wanted to have a prevention meeting in the area, she contacted Pine Island Elementary School Principal Rob Mazzoli and Superintendent Joseph Burke, who both agreed it would be a good meeting to have.

"We definitely want to heighten the awareness with the parents and community," Fischer said about the various substances, especially prescription pain medication that is being abused. "We think it is important to set up a forum so people can easily access information."

Fischer said the coalition is trying to network with schools, hospitals and other groups within the community, so that everyone can work together as a team to protect the youth and people of the community.

Fact Box

If You Go

What: Family Prevention Meeting

Hosts: Lee County Coalition for a

Drug-Free Southwest Florida

When: Jan. 17, dinner at 6 p.m.,

program from 7-8:30 p.m.

Where: Pine Island Elementary

School, 5360 Ridgewood Drive

Cost: Free

RSVP: Coalition 239-931-9317, or

call Pine Island Elementary

School at 239-283-0505

Pine Island Elementary School was chosen for the Family Prevention Meeting, Fischer said, because it is the hub of the community.

"We want people to become completely aware of all the dangers," she said. "We want to make sure everyone has a chance to be aware of that."

The meeting, which is free of charge, will be held Thursday, Jan. 17. It will kick off with a free spaghetti dinner at 6 p.m. followed with a meeting that will run for approximately 90 minutes.

The children and teenagers will be a part of a different meeting than their parents during the event.

Comella said the youngsters and teens will participate in the Night Vision Prevention Program, which is offered by the Florida National Guard Counterdrug Program and presented by Staff Sgt. Jorge Garcia. She said he will address alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs and inhalants.

"After dinner, that is where the kids are going to go," Comella said. "They are going to have a fun meeting."

The parents are going to be challenged to get involved in drug prevention during their portion of the meeting. She said she thinks that parents will be surprised to find out how many prevention programs there are in Lee County, as well as within the schools.

Fischer said she will speak a little about the programs that are within the schools and what preventive strategies are taking place.

"It will be an opportunity for people to find out what is available as far as help and where to go to access that help," she said.

Comella said they are going to give parents the tools to continue those programs at home, so they can further the prevention efforts.

The meeting, Fischer said, will provide information about prevention, as well as strategies to teach parents and students about drug abuse prevention and where to go for help if needed.

Comella said an attorney will provide a personal story, the Sheriff's Office will share information about what it is doing in the community and how deputies can provide support as well. Information will also be provided about which drugs are being abused, why people are taking them and what the attraction is behind it, as well as how abuse can be recognized.

"We really need to get people to lock up their medications and dispose and lock up," she said.

Comella is hoping that people leave the meeting with a shopping list of things they can do to prevent drug abuse from occurring.

Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner will provide a green screen for families to have their picture taken, so families can choose which background they would like to be printed.

Agencies and non-profit organizations will also have display tables set up to offer prevention information for families.

"Anybody is welcome," Comella said.

According to the 2012 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, a larger percentage of females surveyed that they used prescription pain relievers in a lifetime (2002-2012). Although that percentage - 7 percent female and 5.9 percent male - surveyed that they used prescription pain relievers, it was down from 2002 where 8.4 percent female surveyed that they used them and 7.5 percent male.

In 2012, the largest age group surveyed using prescription pain relievers occurred at the age of 17 with 10.7 percent, which was followed close behind for 18 year olds at 10 percent.

The highest occurrence of the use of prescription pain relievers occurred in 2004 and 2006 for 18 year olds at 14 percent.

Comella said they are very interested in giving families information, so they can conduct prevention at home with their children. She said it is important to start having conversations with kids when they are 4 years old.

"That is when you need to start a lot of good family habits," Comella said, adding that it is important to create the opportunity for children to have conversations that are open and free ranging.

She said although a parent may not agree with the conversations that are being held, it is opening up a line of communication. It is important Comella said for the child to bounce things off the parent without them becoming mad.

"Then you got the basis of a dialogue to continue as long as they are in the house," she said.

Comella said it is important to talk about what if someone in your class does this, what makes it a bad choice and what would you do in that situation.

Those who are interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP to the Coalition at 239-931-9317, email or call Pine Island Elementary School at 239-283-0505 to ensure there is enough spaghetti to serve.



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