Drug Task Force to host event at FP

IRON RIVER/CRYSTAL FALLS—Those with any amount of community awareness realize the reality of substance abuse among youth in the Upper Peninsula.
    And locally, the use of alcohol and drugs among students is clearly problematic.
    In one recent survey conducted by the Iron County Communities That Care last December in the Forest Park and West Iron County school districts, Iron County ranked first in the U.P. in use of alcohol in the previous 30 days among eighth-graders, sophomores and seniors and first in the U.P. in use of marijuana in the previous 30 days among sophomores.
    While this was one survey taken at one particular time among one particular student body at both schools, the numbers reported in the survey are alarming.
    As part of the community’s response to the problem, the Iron County Drug Task Force has scheduled a pair of events called “Our Children, Our Future” at both Forest Park and West Iron County schools.
    The first will be held at the Forest Park schools on Wednesday, Oct. 17, and will run from 6-7:30 p.m. The second is scheduled to be held at the West Iron County schools on March 19.
    “Together with the partners of the IC Drug Task Force, (Aspirus Iron Area Health Foundation) will continue to leverage our collective resources to further develop prevention and educational opportunities which will support our youth and communities,” said Peg James, the foundation’s director.
    The first event will begin with a dinner for parents and students in the cafeteria before a breakout session each for parents and students following.
    The breakout session for parents will be called “Hiding in Plain Sight” and presented by Jean Flood, a Crystal Falls native who is the project coordinator for the Taylor County (Wis.) Drug Opposition Partners and Drug-Free Communities. The purpose of the session will be to educate parents/guardians on ways children may be hiding drugs in everyday items like clothing and other household items.
    “It’s really about having ordinary household and bedroom-type items that are right in your view, but you don’t know what they’re for,” James said.
    The breakout session for students will be presented by Seth Waters, a local small business owner, pastor and musician who is a recovering addict and will detail his journey from drug addiction.
    “Seth is pretty dynamic, and I think he’ll be great speaking to the kids,” James said.
    Each breakout session will last approximately 30 minutes. Iron County Prosecuting Attorney Melissa Powell will give opening and closing remarks.
    James added that approximately 20 gift certificates/cards, all from local businesses, will be handed out during a raffle.
    The IC Drug Task Force also includes the Michigan State Police, the Iron County Sheriff’s Department, Aspirus, Forest Park and West Iron County school districts, Northpointe, Iron County Communities That Care and concerned community members.
    James said the task force has been together for about nine months and followed the Health Foundation’s “Overdoing Opioids” panel last October.
    “Interest just evolved from that,” James said. “Our focus is prevention and education, and this is part of that. So, it’s really to have a safer, healthier environment.
    “Hopefully, we can empower and inspire parents and students alike to have a voice if they see this behavior or if they notice a change in their friends’ behavior or other’s behavior.”
    James said the main sponsors for the event are the Iron County Drug Task Force, the Aspirus Iron Area Health Foundation and the Iron County Board of Commissioners.