Operation Street Smart educates about drug abuse

SALEM – Parents, educators and all adults who have contact with children can learn the latest about drug abuse, how to recognize it and how to avoid it during Operation Street Smart from 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 4.

The nationally-recognized free program taught by detectives from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office will be offered at the Kent State University Salem City Center at 230 N. Lincoln Ave., formerly known as the Salem Middle School.

Registration is required, with a deadline of Oct. 28 for people to call the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board at 330-424-0195 to register.

A flyer for Operation Street Smart said “this program arms adults with information needed to recognize the influences of the drug culture on our children and to be aware of the many drugs our children are confronted with.”

Kathie Chaffee, executive director of the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, said it’s a good program.

“They cover a lot of material, but they focus on how young people conceal their drugs and conceal their drug use,” she said.

According to the flyer, the program covers current trends regarding the drugs young people are using, how young people get drugs and what adults can do to stop the supply, physiological effects such as how drugs affect the behavior of young people, how young people hide their drugs and what should raise suspicion by adults and how young people talk about drugs, such as the slang and terminology they use.

Chaffee said they hosted the program earlier this year in East Liverpool and had 200 people show up. The program presenters bring with them dozens of items young people use to hide drugs, such as a pop can with a secret compartment. She said they try to bring home the point that drugs can happen to anybody and that all young people are at risk.

One of the items they used was a video clip of a young man who was the model, perfect kid with a strong family and strong friendships who died while abusing drugs. After the fact, she said it was clear it had been his first time.

“As adults, we have to be well-informed about what to look for in our kid, in our students, in our nieces and nephews,” Chaffee said. “Kids rely on us to intervene when they start going off-track.”

The program is geared toward any adults who have contact with children, but especially parents, juvenile law enforcement and criminal justice professionals, professionals in social services, drug and alcohol agencies, healthcare, educators and community leaders interested in reducing the drug problem in Columbiana County.

Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott said he’s never attended a session of Operation Street Smart, but from everything he’s heard from people who have attended, the program is very informative.

“I would highly recommend it for any parent, any teacher, anybody who works with young people,” he said.

Panezott has specialized in drug enforcement for most of his career with the Salem Police Department, as one of the founding officers and the first director of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force and during his assignment with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“If you’ve got a child, obviously kids or young people, you want to know what’s out there, the names they go by, how they’re hiding it, the slang terms they’re using,” he said.

When Panezott took his oath as chief in February, he made no secret about his plan to step up enforcement of all offenses, including traffic, with officers keeping an eye out for drugs.

“We have a heroin problem and obviously we have a meth problem and the meth problem seems to be growing quite rapidly,” he said.

Three meth lab operations have been found since February, with two of them right across the street from each other, not far from police headquarters.

According to Chaffee, the drug problem isn’t unique to Salem or East Liverpool alone.

“In our experience, every community in the county is struggling with this,” she said.

When asked how important a program like Operation Street Smart is to parents, she said it’s critical. She said most parents are interested in their children doing well in school, so they attend the conferences and monitor homework. For their health, it’s the same way. They want their children to be healthy.

She explained that parents need to become knowledgeable about drugs as a means to monitor their child’s health. One of the biggest risk factors she identified was kids who aren’t monitored by parents. She also said there’s a stereotype about the type of kid who will become involved with drugs.

“All kids will be exposed to drugs at some point. They will be exposed to making that choice,” she said.

Flyers about the program have been sent to all school health resource teams, law enforcement, ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team) members, child service agencies and volunteers. The flyer has also been posted at local libraries.

Sponsors besides the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board include the ADAPT Coalition, county Drug Task Force, Family Recovery Center and Salem Community Hospital.