Parents concerned their children might be taking drugs now have a new weapon in their arsenal drug tests.
No, random drug testing hasn't come to Norwalk City Schools. But free drug tests are now available to parents throughout the county.
While drug test kits have always been available at the Norwalk Police Department, many parents felt uncomfortable going to the station in such situations. The tests will now be available at four locations, including the Huron County Health Department and Fisher-Titus Medical Center.
"We want to do this now, in the summer time. It is a high risk time for substance abuse," said Norwalk City Schools Superintendent Wayne Babcanec. The kits are part of the collaborative effort of city, county and school officials to counter the area drug problem. FTMC has donated the first 100 drug test kits.
"This is just another way for us to promote health and wellness in our community," FTMC spokeswoman Deb Reed said.
Jean King, president of the Huron County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board (ADAMhs), said parents must be willing to be temporarily disliked when administering the tests. Having the test in the home can also serve as a deterrent and show parents disapprove of alcohol and drug use.
"It's just another tool for parents," said Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch. "We are in no way suggesting one belongs in every home."
And Norwalk Police Chief Kevin Cashen had a message for parents worried that making their child take a drug test violates their trust.
"Trusting teenagers is overrated," he said. "Any parent of any teenager will understand that."
The tests provide instant urine analysis and can detect nine drugs, including marijuana and methamphetamine. Parents who want to confirm the results of the test can take the sample to FTMC Industrial Services and have a lab process them, though that is up to the parent, said Peg Koupal, director of FMTC Industrial Health Services.
With the exception of pot, which stays in the system for 30 days after use, most drugs will register only two to three days after use.
"That's why we say, if a child refuses, it is considered a positive," King said, adding even if the results are negative parents must remain vigilant.
Following a positive test, parents should take action, which could include contacting the ADAMhs Board's 24-crisis hotline (800) 826-1306 and getting a diagnostic assessment by a counselor. However, parents do not have to wait for a positive test to seek help, King added.
"Research shows it's parents who make the difference with drug use," she said.
By the end of the month, Cashen said he would like to use $750 from the city's DUI fund to purchase strips that test saliva for alcohol. The fund is made up of fees paid by those convicted of drunk driving.
Those involved in the collaborative effort, now referred to as the Community Prevention Partners, are still looking for alternative sources of funding to continue and expand the drug prevention program. A large push is set for the fall, which will include meetings with parents where drug tests also will be available.
Anyone interested in donating to the effort can do so through the United Fund.
"We're so grateful to Fisher-Titus, which is always willing to step up and help now have funds to pay for 100 kits," Lesch said. "We're looking to find resources to have avenues for parents."