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Get schooled on drugs

An adult-only talk aims to educate and arm parents
by: Submitted photo The West Linn Community Task Force will be handing out 500 of these containers designed to safely dissolve drugs.

Julie Edwards wants parents of teens to get schooled. She wants to educate parents about drug and alcohol abuse and arm them with information.

The West Linn Community Task Force, of which Edwards is co-chair, is holding an adult-only forum Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the West Linn High School auditorium.

The task force was formed last fall to address teen chemical and alcohol use in the city. After the high-profile arrest of then senior Garrett Smith in December 2010, the high school and the community started talking about drug and alcohol awareness.

The upcoming forum is different than last year's, which was well attended by 450 parents. This one will have a panel format with specialists in different areas of drug and alcohol abuse.

The talks are adult-only and are meant to be peer to peer.

'There are some pretty frank discussions,' said Edwards.

Each of the five speakers will talk for 10 minutes and then there will be a question and answer session. Adults can submit questions anonymously and have them answered by the professionals.

One speaker is Dr. Andrew Mendenhall, who was a featured speaker last year. A specialist at HealthWorks NW, Mendenhall works in youth addiction, recovery and drug/alcohol abuse.

Mendenhall will talk about the medical and chemical side of drugs (including prescription drugs) and alcohol and the effects they have on the body.

Edwards said parents need to understand the seriousness of what they are dealing with. Knowing how drugs and alcohol affect a teen's body is the first step.

'They need to understand the harm that can be done,' said Edwards.

Another speaker is Dr. Jay Klusky, who teaches parent empowerment classes. He will talk about importance of making good choices and getting support and help.

Edwards said, often, when parents find out their children are using drugs or abusing alcohol, they don't know what next steps to take.

Steven Mygrant, Clackamas County deputy district attorney will discuss legal ramifications of drug and alcohol use, such as if a teen is charged with driving under the influence.

Chris Farentinos, chief operating officer from DePaul Treatment Services, will also speak. DePaul, having heard of the task force's work in the community, is looking to open a treatment center in West Linn. The representative will discuss treatment options and how treatment works.

Lastly, Rosemary Schwimmer from Oregon Partnership will speak about how parents can get involved, volunteer and be active in the community on the drug and alcohol topic.

Smith, who was arrested for possession of marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms when he was 18, will make a guest appearance. He will talk briefly about his experience, how he turned his life around, and how important it is for parents to get and stay involved in their kids' lives.

'Boy, does he have some good advice,' said Edwards of Smith. 'It's such an important topic.'

In the hallway near the auditorium, tables filled with information will be available for parents. Edwards likened it to a tradeshow.

On top of all the information parents will be walking away with, the task force will be giving each family a drug disposal bottle. The bottles are an environmentally safe way to dispose of drugs.

Edwards is expecting a large turnout for the forum and is hoping many of the participants will step up and get involved.

'We will be asking the community if they would like to help participate,' she said. 'This is all about community collaboration. I know how worried many of us are regarding this subject.'

The task force is planning a similar event just for students later this fall.

For more information about the task force, visit www.westlinncommunitytaskforce.org.