Parents can do more than anyone or anything else to keep teens from abusing drugs or alcohol, current research shows.
While the Norwalk City Schools investigate random drug testing, parents already have a number of resources in town to help them.
The Huron County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board (ADAMhs) offers a number of publications designed to educate and assist parents with the daunting task of keeping their children off drugs and alcohol.
The centerpiece of their efforts is the "Family Action Plan," which outlines the best practices of parents.
Knowing where their children are after school and on weekends.
Expecting to be told the truth by their children about where they were going after school and on weekends.
Monitoring what their children do on the Internet.
Imposing a curfew.
Eating dinner with their children almost every night.
Turning off the TV during dinner.
Research from Columbia University indicates that teens whose parents took ten or more of the 12 actions in the plan were four times less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than teens whose parents took five or fewer of these actions.
The Action Plan is designed to help parents implement these practices and develop healthy rules on everything from how a family will spend time together and treat each other, to how and whom they date, to how they will use their driving privileges.
The plan also encourages parents to establish consequences when rules are broken.
"The reality is that ... consequences are the best hope for saving the addict or alcoholic," according the ADAMhs board pamphlet, "Take Action to Stop Heroin Addiction."
Other publications the ADAMhs Board offers include the "Speaker's Bureau" pamphlet with a menu of educational offerings that can be arranged and "It's a Jungle Out There," a listing of resources in the community.
If you are concerned about your child, Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services, with the sponsorship of the ADAMhs Board, will assess any youth at no cost to his parents.
Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services also provides educational programs to encourage young people to make healthy lifestyle choices, and they have worked with schools and churches to provide mini-conferences with activities to build skills. They also sponsor youth-led programs and have found young people receptive. "A lot of them are making good choices," said Karen Russell, of Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services.
For those who already have a problem with drugs, alcohol or mental health (everything ranging from adjustment issues to full-blown mental illnesses), the center offers counseling on an out-patient basis. Jean King, executive director of the ADAMhs Board, said out-patient processes are much more effective than in-patient rehab centers.
The center also has a counselor in the Emergency Room at Fisher-Titus Medical Center, so 24-hour help is available.
Cost for these services is on a sliding scale based on income and family size.
Concerned parents also can get a drug-testing kit at Fisher-Titus. Just call or go to the Industrial Health department, and they will give you a kit with the paperwork and a container you need to collect a urine sample. They will also tell you how to collect the sample, in case you're worried about your child switching the samples, Karen Ott said.
The results are usually available the same week, Ott said, and they will test for marijuana for $15 and for five to nine drugs for $25.
An important thing to be aware of, King said, is that drug-tests do not screen for alcohol, and alcohol abuse is still, by far, the biggest problem among young people. That's why it's important to be awake when your child comes home, so you can judge whether your child has been drinking.
If you're concerned you can take your child to the Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services to have a breathalyzer test. You can also take your child to the Norwalk Police Department. If you did so "we would work with you," Chief Kevin Cashen said. The PD would test your child with a breathalyzer, and not necessarily arrest and charge him. They would want to be sure that "the parents were going to handle it," Cashen said.
Other counseling and support services are available from Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Alanon, a support group for families of addicts.
The ADAMhs Board publications are available at schools and libraries in town, as well as at the ADAMhs board office at 130 Shady Lane Drive. Or, if you call (419) 668-8649, King will mail you copies.
You can also download digital copies at the Reflector's Web site,www.norwalkreflector.com.