The city of Huntington deals with a
substance abuse problem that even affects children. The Office of National Drug
Control Policy is giving $125,000 to the Cabell County Substance Abuse
Prevention Partnership to help prevent drug use among kids in Huntington.
The partnership is run by the United Way and meant
to bring law enforcement, local school officials and others together. Michelle
Perdue is the Coordinator for the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention
“We’re able to work with them in the
sense of teaching them drug prevention and educating them, but then turning
them into the prevention leaders, it becomes youth led, but adult guided. We
educate them on what drugs do to your bodies. They understand the high, but not
what drugs do inside your bodies,” Perdue said.
The United Way created a coalition
against Substance Abuse in 2006. It’s a continuation grant and the third year
the group has teamed up with the Office of national Drug Control’s Drug Free
Communities. Perdue said in that time the program has taken off. She said early
on, most of the public didn’t think drugs were a problem for youth in Huntington.
"This community was about a two. There
was some drug problems, but it really wasn’t our issue and then I think with
doing the pride survey in the schools and actually asking those series
questions about substance use with the students, our students are using and I
think it makes the community more aware and they have to take those blinders
off,” Perdue said.
Perdue said the hope is to create
awareness, educate and find community-wide solutions by looking to the people
who live in all different sectors. Cabell County schools is also joining the
fight. Jedd Flowers is spokesman for Cabell County schools and said the Cabell
County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership is important because many
children deal with their own drug issues.
“The Cabell County Substance Abuse
Partnership, they are actually doing a lot of prevention messages with our students. They do billboards. They do television commercials and they send
information to our employees. We get newsletters to share with the kids and we
share our pride survey data with the United Way and they look at that and see
what are the needs of the kids in the community,” Flowers said.
Cabell County is in its 4th
year of drug testing students in middle and high schools in the county who
participate in extracurricular activities such as athletics and those students
who want to drive to school. The program last year saw the percentage of
students testing positive drop to 1.3. Perdue said the work of others in the
community have made quite a difference.
“Having the drug free communities grant
and having this coalition gives this community a voice where they may have not
had a voice before. Now they know we’re here. We’ve raised awareness. We more
at like a five now where people know that there is issues and it’s not just in
New York City or Los Angeles. It’s right here in Huntington, West Virginia,”
Perdue said the advertising and
forums are starting to make a difference in young people’s perception about
“I think it’s definitely starting to
make a positive impact and the students are becoming more educated, instead of
just saying no, it’s think twice about the decisions that you’re making for
your future,” Perdue said.
Perdue said without continuing the
program the number of youth using drugs will raise once again.