Already this year, more Surry County residents have died from drug overdoses than in all of 2016 and with that in mind events are scheduled next week at two local schools to help parents recognize warning signs.
The “Drugs Uncovered” Project — described as a “must-see workshop for parents” — will be held at Pilot Mountain Middle School Monday at 5:30 p.m. The same program is scheduled Tuesday at Mount Airy High School, also at 5:30 p.m.
As enticements for local adults to attend, the two events not only will include free admission, but a free meal and the providing of child care for the duration of each.
Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m.
“The actual presentation starts at 6 p.m.” said Karen Eberdt, substance abuse prevention specialist with Surry County Health and Nutrition Center. Eberdt also heads Project Lazarus-Surry, a group formed in 2011 to combat abuse and misuse of prescription medications locally.
Next week’s adults-only presentations are geared toward parents or guardians of students in grades 4-12, educators, counselors and government/community professionals.
Those who would like to attend are asked to RSVP online. The link for the Pilot Mountain Middle School program is http://bit.ly/2q2TpsM and attendees for the Mount Airy High School program can access http://bit.ly/2pbPwz6
The registration deadline for the Pilot Mountain event is Friday at 8 p.m., and that for the Mount Airy program is Monday at 8 p.m.
“This program basically is an additional tool in parents’ tool boxes for raising kids in 2017,” Eberdt said of “Drugs Uncovered.”
She said adults might view at-risk behavior today through the lens of what they were exposed to as youngsters — which might have been limited to spin the bottle.
“This just points out to them all the things kids are facing in 2017,” Eberdt explained regarding the program content, including modern dangers from drugs and alcohol, signs to look for and trends among youths today.
The “Drugs Uncovered” Project is being offered in conjunction with the Poe Center, a Raleigh-based non-profit organization dedicated to educating and empowering North Carolina youths and families to make choices that lead to healthier lives. The North Carolina Medical Society Alliance also is lending support.
Through the workshop and exhibit programs at the two local schools, parents will:
• Learn ways to talk to kids about drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
• Learn about modern drug trends.
• Identify signs of substance abuse.
• Explore a “teenager’s bedroom.”
• Identify ways teens are using common and unique items to conceal and use drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Participants also will receive free materials, including resources on raising drug- and alcohol-free teens.
In the “bedroom”
Eberdt is particularly excited about “The Bedroom Project” from the Poe Health Center, which she said is an exhibit representing a teen’s bedroom.
It allows parents a close-up look at items they should be on the lookout for in their own children’s rooms which can indicate participation or interest in risky behavior.
This includes being instructed about various objects in the bedroom exhibit which might appear innocent, but signal at-risk behavior, according to Eberdt, who offered an example:
“When you see a highlighter,” she said of a common writing device used to mark sections of text in a bright color, “it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a highlighter — that’s one of the ways you can bring drugs to school.”
Programs for students
While the “Drugs Uncovered” Project targets parents, other school-based efforts are aimed at getting the message out to the youths about at-risk behaviors:
• A free program called “For the Health of It” will be held during the school day Tuesday for seventh-graders at Mount Airy Middle School.
Students will discover how using drugs and alcohol can damage their brains and bodies. This class is centered around interactive activities that focus on “showing and not telling” kids how their brains are affected by alcohol and drug (inhalants, marijuana) use.
Real-life scenarios are used to help students analyze how a “drugged” brain affects their actions and decision-making skills. Students also will engage in role-play reinforcing refusal skills.
• “The Alphabet of Anti-Bullying” also will be offered free during the daytime Tuesday to sixth-graders at Mount Airy Middle School.
Its content will include helping students learn the facts about bullying: how to recognize it, the roles of the “Bullying Circle” and what to do from each role’s perspective. They also will learn how to recognize and nourish healthy relationships and avoid negative relationships, among other instruction.
The scheduling of such events shortly before the end of the school year was strategic, according to Eberdt.
“Just before they (students) leave for the summer, there’s a responsibility to get all these messages out to them.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.