Sunday, September 17, 2000

Forum examines addiction

More prevention for youths sought

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Enough rhetoric — let's help youths get off and stay off drugs and away from alcohol, Cincinnati residents said during a forum Saturday on youth addiction.

        The audience members expressed concern about Cincinnati's lack of youth treatment and prevention services during a forum at the Hamilton County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Center. The forum was part of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

        Some youths stood up and made passionate pleas for community involvement to help them beat addiction.

        “We need more love and support as youth because sometimes we don't have that in our homes,” said one young woman, a treatment center participant whose name is being withheld. “We're not bad kids. We just sometimes make bad choices.”

        The young woman participates in Passages, a neighborhood substance abuse treatment program for adolescents run through the addiction services center. Treatment can include services for youths using drugs or alcohol, or youths whose family members abuse drugs or alcohol.

        A group of girls from Passages and other audience members made pleas for addiction services to the panel ists, who included police, politicians, insurance providers, church leaders and addictions services groups.

        A school administrator said she would like more treatment and intervention in schools, while one youth said he would like to see more counseling and mentoring.

        Cincinnati is one of 15 cities across the nation holding community meetings on the topic. Louisville will hold a meeting Sept. 28.

        The purpose is to raise awareness about the problems of drug and alcohol abuse and determine what can be done locally, said Dr. Sherry Knapp of the Hamilton County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board.

        Participants, from youths to senior citizens, agreed that more money should be spent on prevention instead of waiting until youths need treatment.

        Only about 20 percent of the county addiction services center's $17 million budget goes toward prevention, Ms. Knapp said. Most of the money goes toward treatment after an addiction is full-blown, she said.

        Furthermore, the center is not reaching enough youths. The center estimates that only 10 percent of Greater Cincinnati youths who need treatment actually receive services, she said. From July 1999 to June 2000, about 1,140 youths received treatment services.

        “We want to acknowledge that we do have insufficient services,” Ms. Knapp said.

        The county spends about $300,000 annually to send children out of the county and out of the state to obtain services, she said.

        In the past year, the addiction services board added a home-based treatment program in which treatment staff members work with an entire family to address familial issues that may affect adolescent addiction. But more such services are needed, Ms. Knapp said.

        A number of audience members made calls for faith-based treatment centers.

        The Rev. Stephen Scott, who runs a faith-based substance abuse treatment center for youths called Scott Hall, said the county needs to invest in youths just as it has invested in the new Bengals stadium.

        “Why is it so hard to get a couple of million dollars to help kids?” he said.

        The forums across the nation were designed to put community members face-to-face with policy-makers and program directors to examine local approaches to treatment and try to come up with the best means to serve youths.


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