To the Editor,

   Sunday I got a chance to participate in something truly wonderful in Jefferson County. It was the signing by many community agencies (health and human services, law enforcement and police, social services, and schools) of a new protocol for combating the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs by our youngest citizens.
   The effort was coordinated by the Jefferson County Prevention Task Force, a grass-roots community coalition set up to deal with the issues that most negatively affect youth in Jefferson County, namely underage drinking or experimentation with meth, marijuana and other drugs including tobacco.
   The toll that abuse of these substances takes on young people is appalling. Even a single use of methamphetamine can damage brain chemistry and alter personality. Underage drinking is responsible for carnage on the highways, teen pregnancy and a spiral of bad decisions that can destroy lives. The illegal use of tobacco by young people can begin a chain reaction that shortens lives and invites disease.
   Often, parents and caring citizens feel a sense of helplessness, and even hopelessness when confronting these issues. But no more.
   The Jefferson County Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug (ATOD) Protocol requires law enforcement and police agencies to record and report the names of all minors encountered at locations where illegal or illicit substance abuse occurs. Minors taking part in criminal activity will be cited. Other minors not involved, but are present will be named as witnesses to the criminal activity (just like other citizens who witness criminal activity are documented). The report is forwared to the Juvenile Department and Schools. The Juvenile Department will be notifying parents if their child was cited or if their child was a witness. The Schools will be taking action according to their policies and procedures, such as with extra-curricular activities.
   In other words, from now on, if young people use, the people that should know will know. And if parents and caring people know, they'll have the power to intervene.
   Sound tough? It is. But not as tough as living through the aftermath of an alcohol-related teen fatality, or seeing a beloved son or daughter hooked on meth.
   I am proud of Jefferson County citizens for finding a new way to be proactive for the health and well-being of children. This protocol is the first of its kind ever to be used anywhere in the Land.
   For more information contact Mandi Puckett, Prevention Specialist with BestCare Treatment Services and Coordinator of the Jefferson Coutny Prevention Task force, at (541)410-0606.
   Senator Ted Ferrioli
Senate District 30
Senate Republican Leader
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