Woodlands’ E.J. McAndrew at Dowagiac Rotary Club March 1

Archived Story

Teens abuse prescription drugs

Published 10:21pm Thursday, March 1, 2012

In an effort to prevent abuse of prescription drugs, disposal of unused or expired medication will take place in Cass County from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 28 at numerous sites.
Two collections last year pulled 109 pounds of pills.
The sheriff’s office has a permanent drop box available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in its lobby in Cassopolis.
“When we do sentencings on Friday, probably 80 to 90 percent have either a drug or an alcohol problem,” Prosecutor Victor Fitz said. “The more prevention we can do, the better. Statistics show the earlier someone starts alcohol use, the less successful they’re going to be in life.”
“We now know brains continue to develop until the mid-20s,” E.J. McAndrew said. “The one drug going up in use and abuse with adolescents is prescription drugs.”
McAndrew, a Paw Paw native who lives in Lawton, has been substance abuse prevention coordinator at Woodlands Behavioral Healthcare Network in Cassopolis for a year and a half.
CASS (Cass Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Safety Solutions) Community Coalition formed in 2007 under a former Michigan Office of Drug Control Policy grant. The three-year grant, Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant, known as SPF-SIG, focused on reducing underage drinking and drunken driving deaths.

A bigger focus
In 2010, when SPF-SIG expired, coalition members voted to widen its focus to address other drug abuse and addiction concerns specific to Cass County with a collaborative approach.
“Through education, community standards, outreach and enforcement, we will promote what’s best for the health and safety of Cass County residents,” its mission statement said.
In collaboration last November with the Youth Council and the Elks, CASS Community Coalition offered a two-day adolescent training with national presenter Nigel Wrangham.
“Kids from Cassopolis, Marcellus — which formed its own group — and Brandywine learned how to plan a strategy addressing issues in their schools. They learned leadership skills and empathy to use people for their gifts rather than to look at them as different. Cassopolis has used that plan throughout the year to address drinking and driving and underage drinking in general. Marcellus is taking on drinking and driving around prom and grad time,” McAndrew said. “The workshop was extremely well-received based on exit surveys.”
“Every kid in our school should do this,” wrote a female 11th-grader.
“Invites went out to all the schools,” she said. “I contacted all the superintendents and principals with the help of Amy Anderson” at Southwestern Michigan College.
“Edwardsburg, unfortunately, it fell at a bad time for their semester change. I was not able to get a response back from Dowagiac.”
Coalition members include Woodlands, the sheriff’s office, the health department, the prosecutor’s office, Michigan State Police, Cassopolis Family Clinic Network, the County of Cass and 101 FM/910 AM classic hits radio serving Dowagiac and Cass County.
This will be the third year every junior and senior in the county receives a prom-graduation letter from Fitz and law enforcement.
“We have worked with our local police departments on specific activities,” such as 13-week Smart Summer, McAndrew told Dowagiac Rotary Club Thursday noon at Elks Lodge 889. Smart Summer used billboards and business posters to attract parents to Facebook.com/CASS.Community for information.
Interested citizens can join an e-mail list to receive the latest information on drug research, CASS meetings and events. Send your request to McAndrew at ejmc@woodlandbhn.org.

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