According to a recent Substance Abuse Survey of Florida high school students, approximately 66% of Florida’s teenagers use alcohol, with one-third of those admitting to binge-drinking within two weeks prior to the survey, 31% of these same students reported using marijuana, and another 10% reported taking prescription pain killers, psychotropic medications, inhalants and even cough medicine to get high.
Despite these figures, the Florida Citizens for Social Reform (FCSR) believes something can be done. On September 26th, they hosted a drug conference at Clearwater’s Fort Harrison Hotel for opinion leaders and activists, to brief attendees on a drug prevention program being used successfully by community groups and police departments across the nation: The Truth About Drugs initiative sponsored by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.
Attendees included: Susan Latvala, County Commissioner; Kathleen Peters, Mayor of South Pasadena; Jay J. Beyrouti, Chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party and Clearwater City Council Members John Doran and Paul Gibson, among others.
The premise of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World is straightforward: society can only be reformed from the roots up, through education, not by force in the form of fines and prison terms. The Foundation’s educational program includes hard-hitting booklets detailing the truth about the twelve most abused drugs (including alcohol), PSAs, a no-punches-pulled documentary, titled “The Truth About Drugs”, and an educator’s guide. Excerpts from the documentary were screened for the audience.
State Representative Ed Hooper presented a legislative tribute to Foundation director Julieta Santagostino at the conference, proclaiming “that the Foundation for a Drug Free World is commended for its cooperative, community-based efforts to prevent drug use among the youth of Florida, especially through its Say ‘No’ to Drugs, Say ‘Yes’ to Life programs.”
In his remarks, Rep. Hooper decried the dangerous and irresponsible practice of children under the age of six being given powerful off-label psychotropic drugs. His call for an end to this abuse, “This is not right and we must do something about it,” was greeted with thunderous applause from the 200 or more attendees.
Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats echoed Rep. Hooper’s proclamation in a message delivered by his Chief Deputy, Robert Gualtieri, saying, “As Sheriff of Pinellas County, I have personally seen the devastating results of drug abuse, from cocaine to prescription medications. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Foundation for a Drug Free World for their programs to educate our youth regarding the truth about drugs,” adding, “I have seen their materials and believe that these materials will make a difference in the fight against drug abuse if used by parents, educators and students.”
Gualtieri concluded by saying the battle is winnable with a shoulder-to-shoulder effort. “Law enforcement needs good community partners and community support to effectively address the rampant drug problem in our communities.”
As thanks for his service to the community, Rep. Hooper was presented a framed poster for the movie “Ladder 49,” autographed by John Travolta, a direct reference to his 28 years of service as a fire fighter, from FCSR founders Bret Miller and Steve and Joanie Sigal.
The audience left the event animated with the conviction that like-minded people, banding together under the banner of such groups as the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, can succeed and give back to our children their birthright unclouded by drug abuse.
For more information on the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, visit www.drugfreeworld.org