Reach Out Against Drugs Reaches Out to Educate
Parent Education Night Offers Valuable Resources and Information
El Segundo, CA – October 5, 2012 – Lined up black-and-whites outside El Segundo High School at any given time is always a huge cause for concern – except for Thursday evening, October 5, when the El Segundo Police Department in conjunction with Reach Out Against Drugs (R.O.A.D.) hosted an informative evening in the new El Segundo Performing Arts Center to educate parents about threats to their teenage and pre-teenage children’s well-being.
Battling Homecoming week activities and float building obviously had an impact on the turn out, but for those parents in the audience who made it to the 7 p.m. presentation, it was well worth the time spent. El Segundo Police Captain Bob Turnbull was instrumental in working with R.O.A.D. President Jenny Davies and City Council Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Fuentes to organize the evening event. Greeting incoming participants were Carol Almeda and Dawn Omori, two active members of the Asian American Drug Abuse Program, (AADAP), who manned a table in the foyer to distribute pertinent materials.
R.O.A.D. Vice-President Lynette Marcus introduced the evening before handing the microphone to El Segundo police officer Steve Paulsen, who serves as the ESPD School Resource Officer (SRO) for the El Segundo Unified School District.
Officer Paulsen, who has close contact with the ups-and-downs of adolescence, gave an informative presentation about his own personal experiences with teenagers who think they are invincible and hence disregard their personal safety by indulging in underage drinking and drug taking. “Oftentimes the community doesn’t have a real grasp on what happens to our vulnerable teens because when they accidentally overdose and are transported to local hospitals for medical care, no one hears about it. They kids are juveniles, their privacy is protected, so it slides under the radar. But it’s very real and it happens. Not in some other community, but right here in town, in our own community.”
Giving credence to the inventiveness of teenagers, a jaw-dropping display of drug paraphernalia was displayed across the stage behind Paulsen, everything from marijuana grinders to drug scales for weighing drugs (while either buying or selling) conveniently camouflaged inside a CD case. As a map was projected across the screen showing every legal marijuana dispensary in the City of Los Angeles, Paulsen stunned the crowd by mentioning it is tougher to buy a Subway sandwich in Los Angeles than it is to purchase medical marijuana. “There are 600 Subway outlets in LA. There are 1,000 marijuana dispensaries,” he informed horrified parents.
ESHS Assistant Principal Ali Rabiei next shared his support for both students and parents, reassuring them the high school staff is prepared, trained, and ever vigilant about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He assured parents they could relax with the full confidence the number one priority for the high school staff was “first and foremost, student safety.”
Next it fell to Ms. Colleen Ecker, A Counselor/Interventionist with the Thelma McMillen Center for Substance Abuse at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, to share the reality of teen drug and alcohol abuse. She warned parents tobacco is the number one gateway drug – and with very real scientific basis. “Tobacco is the only drug that works on the brain’s receptor sites as both an upper and a downer depending on the smoker’s needs. For that reason, no matter what your emotional need of the moment, tobacco offers relief.” Ms. Ecker brought two clean and sober women – an 18 year old and 22 year old, who shared the road they traveled in high school before finding recovery.
They had perceived their drinking and drugging as no big deal, yet continuously ditched groups of friends as their addiction increased. They admitted one of the most telling things for parents to watch out for is when teens suddenly run with different crowds. “I had to keep searching for increasingly toxic people to hang out with as my drug intake increased,” one of the young women admitted.
Ecker passed out flyers and parent information resources for parents to take home. One of her most powerful comments of the evening served to be the most intuitive. “If you think in your gut something might be wrong, then you are probably right. You need to dig. You need to be vigilant as your kids’ parents to protect your teens. It takes awareness from the whole community to keep teens safe.”
For more information go to: http://www.torrancememorial.org/Clinical_Services/Chemical_Dependency/About_Thelma_McMillen.aspx for additional information.