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Drugs & Alcohol Prevention: ‘Greatest teacher remains the parent’

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

February 11, 2006

Not all teenagers who abuse drugs and alcohol during their high school years are able to move beyond that risky behavior.

And not all youth who get drunk or high can avoid causing themselves and/or others great harm.

Three speakers during the afternoon session of Thursday’s Underage Drinking Prevention Community Roundtable brought that message home.

They had been invited to share their tragedies by the Hood River County Commission on Children and Families, which had organized the forum.

Lisa Perry, a local student, spoke about how alcohol use had plagued her father’s life far beyond graduation. She said the bright future of Bob Perry had been derailed by drinking habits that began while he was a teen. And he had eventually died prematurely from health problems related to his alcoholism.

“The point in my telling you this today is to encourage everyone to take the extra step to do what they can for someone who has a problem with alcohol,” said Perry.

Her tearful testimony was followed by that of Christy Lamm, the young adult daughter of a man sentenced to prison for providing drugs that caused the death of a local teen.

She said her father, Richard Lamm, had started using illicit substances, along with alcohol, in high school, and had never overcome the addictions.

“Drugs not only affected that one person but his family. My dad has spent most of his life in jail and missed out on so much with us,” she said.

The next presenter on the victim impact panel was Leslie Melby, whose late husband, Jan Anderson, had been killed after a drunk teen driver ran him off the road.

“He wasn’t able to see his children play sports or grow up to have families of their own,” she said.

Those emotional true-life stories were followed by expert recommendations on how to encourage healthy behavior among the teenage population.

Hood River County’s Community Justice Director Donita Huskey-Wilson said parents need to understand how much children mirror their actions.

For example, she told of an observation she had made while dining out recently in The Dalles. Huskey-Wilson said parents with two small children had been sitting at a table nearby.

When the parents ordered beer with their dinner, she said the preschoolers wanted pop that was served in the same type of brown bottle. After the drinks were served, she said the children giggled and pretended that they, also, were drinking alcohol.

“Folks, those little kids just had their first drink,” said Huskey-Wilson.

She suggested that adults make a conscious choice to teach their children that social events do not have to include an alcoholic beverage.

“I take a lot of pride in not having to consume alcohol to do what I do in life,” said Huskey-Wilson.

Pam Erickson from Oregon Partnership Parents, a statewide nonprofit prevention organization, said parents should set firm boundaries around their child’s behavior.

“If you are tempted to be too lenient, I ask you to remember that you need to teach your children to be good parents,” she said.

Brent Emmons, dean of students for Hood River County School District, said there was a direct correlation between drug/alcohol use among youth and parental involvement.

He said mothers and fathers should not be afraid to closely monitor the activities of their child. And let him/her know that strict consequences would be enforced for negative choices.

“The greatest teacher remains the parent,” Emmons said.

During a brainstorming session, leaders from businesses, agencies, churches, and law enforcement joined youth and school representatives to develop a battle strategy.

There was strong consensus that the community should have a youth center that provided positive activities. However, it was generally acknowledged that it would be years before the money could be found for that endeavor.

Meanwhile, the 170 participants believed that some immediate fixes were available. For example, they said a campaign could be started to provide parents with more information and support. And area businesses could work with Community Education to sponsor a series of fun activities for teens.

The Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Coalition will take information from the Feb. 9 roundtable and formulate a work plan from 4 to 5:30 on Wednesday, March 15, at China Gorge Restaurant.

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