Archive for March, 2012

Efforts to Ban Smoking in Public Places Moves in Monterey Park

The City Council of Monterey Park has given the signal to its staff to come up with an ordinance draft that will ban smoking in outdoor dining patios and shopping areas.

ban smokingAfter a presentation by the Clean Air for Everyone Council (CAFÉ), the Monterey Park authorities were convinced that something has to be done to control the effects of secondhand smoke especially to non-smokers. With the efforts of concerned citizens and students, smoking in places like the Atlantic Times Square will soon be illegal and those caught violating the rule will be penalized.

CAFÉ Program Coordinator Steven Gallegos said that from the 698 residents they surveyed, an overwhelming 96.1% believed secondhand smoke is dangerous and 81.1% said they will not be against any ordinance banning public smoking.

“We found there was an overwhelming response of yes, they’ve been exposed to secondhand smoke and they believed it was dangerous to their health and they wanted something done about it,” Gallegos said.

The city has an already existing smoking ban on public parks and buildings, and if the council approves the proposed legislation, they will join other cities like Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and South Pasadena that have already adopted similar smoking ban ordinances.

In a report from the Pasadena Star News, residents who have lived with smokers are in favor of the proposal to ban smoking in specific public areas. One supporter says, “I think it is, health wise, beneficial for everyone.”

Yet there are those who are against the move reasoning out that it would be a clear violation of their rights. Advocates against the smoking ban say “it’s an intrusion on people’s rights” and “people have the right to do it. It’s not illegal.”

CAFÉ is funded by the Tobacco Tax and Health Protection Act of 1988 through an agreement with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

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Ohio’s First-Time Heroin Users Getting Younger

The state of Ohio is alarmed on the increasing number of heroin users in the area, as they keep getting younger. Children as young as 13 years old are said to be experimenting with heroin. The drug becomes a cheaper substitute for painkillers and it’s relatively more accessible compared to prescription medications.

heroin abuseAccording to the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, heroin abuse increased in the last six months. From the bi-annual survey of drug users and counselors, the main reasons why heroin has climbed the top of the most abused substances are its cheap cost and easy access.

In 2010, Ohio registered a record-breaking 338 deaths that were all heroin-related.

Trisha Saunders, head of The Recovery Center in Lancaster, confirmed that they are handling 360 cases with patients addicted to painkillers or heroin. “They say, ‘I never thought I’d switch from taking a pill to putting a needle in my arm.”

In Toledo, heroin users start their habit at the tender age of 13. This is supported by Ohio’s biggest substance abuse treatment facility, Maryhaven in Columbus, with 132 patients under the age of 18 hooked on heroin or painkillers.

Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services department director Orman Hall clarified that the state is doing its best to address the problem. They are targeting to lessen heroin users by implementing tighter regulations on dispensing prescription painkillers as heroin addiction is said to start with the said medications.

Heroin availability is not only affecting Ohio. Chicago and Lake County in Northern Indiana are also hit with the epidemic based on the 2011 National Drug Intelligence report.

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Pittsburg High Solicits Approval of Parents for Drug Testing Program

At Pittsburg High School, about 60% of the students are involved in extra-curricular activities ranging from sports, theater, or band groups.

drug testThis is why the Pittsburg High School (PHS) administrators are pushing for a drug testing program, yet they want to get the parents involved in the proposal and gather feedback from them before they finalize all measures.

The planned drug testing program will require students to secure informed-consent agreements from their parents before joining in any extracurricular activities. This will give the school the right to randomly drug test students with a medical review officer.

PHS activities director Doug Hitchcock said it’s about time for their school to adapt substance abuse policies as they could be the only high school in Southeast Kansas that has yet to implement such program.

On April 3, Hitchcock hopes to get more feedback from the parents about the drug testing program during the meeting set to be held in the school auditorium.

In last year’s Communities That Care survey, PHS had one of the highest reported percentage of students getting into drug and alcohol activities. The number of students who admitted to marijuana and alcohol use in PHS was more than the statewide and countrywide averages, although tobacco and methamphetamine abuse declined since the last two decades.

In their version of the drug testing program, students that register positive results will be penalized with suspensions and will be required to undergo counseling programs whether online or at the expense of the students. There will also be follow-up tests to be done for the rest of the school year to monitor their improvement or continuing use.

There are no academic-related consequences and those with graded extracurricular activities will be reassigned to alternative programs.

Hitchcock is optimistic that their drug testing policy will be in place by August of this year.

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Parents in Beach Cities Often Clueless on Teen Problems

Substance abuse chooses not its victims. Even kids who have relatively higher socioeconomic standings in the community still succumb to the problem.

drugs and alcoholIt’s unfortunate that most parents in beach cities don’t know their kids well enough to recognize when trouble is looming. According to Hermosa Beach psychologist Greg Allen, kids go through drug overdoses, car accidents and criminal activities without their parents knowing about it.

In South Bay where Allen works as a teen counselor, teens get stressed as much is expected from them and in most cases, they turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope with the situation.

“Kids used to get into drug use because of peer pressure, to fit in with friends. Now it’s trying to cope with stress. Society doesn’t have a lot of healthy ways to blow off stress, so they turn to substance abuse, fast driving. … They’re excited to try something dangerous.”

Yet parent communities in the area choose to ignore the reality that their kids are having trouble. With enough financial support that they provide to their children, accessibility to different types of drugs and illicit substances can be easier for the kids.

This is why Allen is working with Manhattan Beach School Resource Officer John Loy, Beach Cities Health District representative Sandi Conley, and lawyer George Bird to talk to parents about teen issues in the upcoming “State of our Teens” forum to be held at the Manhattan Beach library on Wednesday. “It’s really alcohol, drugs and sex,” he said.

Allen claims that most parents in beach cities are, in fact, hands-on parents and see to it that their families are well, yet most kids still see their way when it comes to substance abuse. Thus Allen and local attorney Bird will be bringing their talks to more South Bay areas to get more parents involved.

“There is no more pressing concern that we have than the health and well-being of our children,” Bird said.

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Program Empowers the Youth Against Substance Abuse

A Montgomery County-based organization is helping teens to overcome substance abuse. The group Twelve Stones has come up with a program that will train youth and develop leaders among them to fight off drug, alcohol, and tobacco problems.

teen drug abuseThe program will be the first of its kind to be launched by the organization. It will focus on disadvantaged and at-risk children with their own peers as resource persons. Previous cases have shown that kids listen more when other kids talk to them about substance abuse.

Twelve Stones founder Sallie Watkins said they will train teens to improve their communication skills, scientific and behavior information as well as their self-esteem. “These children will become ambassadors and carry the message about the dangers of addiction to their peers and others throughout Montgomery County.”

The program will be launched on April 1 and will gather at least 30 youth participants aged 14 to 18 years old for the next 45 days. They will be exposed to trainings, field trips, and presentations that will equip them with the necessary skills to help other children of their age.

Twelve Stones will be working with officials from Toastmaster International, Dr. Silvia Mishler for self-esteem building, and Diane Featherstone for trainings on behavioral matters. The Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville, medical facilities in the area, and the 401th state District Courts will be educating the teens on the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Participants of the program are also scheduled to join in other activities such as gardening, horse-back riding, and archery. Watkins says they are looking into business partners that will help them expand the program to reach more communities and help more children.

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Drug Testing Bill for Welfare Recipients Discussed in Georgia

The plan to reconcile two versions of the drug testing bill for welfare recipients in Georgia could soon be realized. The House and Senate are also pushing for the exemption of women in domestic violence in the drug testing process before they can receive their welfare benefits as part of the reconciled bill.

drug testingIn the coming conference committee, the House and Senate will reconcile the drug testing bill for welfare recipients authored by Sen. Johm Albers (R-Roswell) and Rep. Michael Harden (R-Toccoa). The two legislative bodies have earlier approved a similar drug testing bill for welfare recipients that require them to pass a drug test before they can get their cash assistance from the state.

Last Wednesday, the House Judiciary Civil committee favored the exemption of women in violent domestic conditions from the required drug test in order to get their payments. Those who did not agree with the decision were quick to say that most women trapped in abusive relationships often turn to drugs and are forced to stay in their situation because they don’t have enough financial resources to support themselves.

Under the welfare program, abused women get their cash benefits automatically while others enjoy the welfare benefits by living under shelters funded by the state welfare program.

The budget requirement for the drug testing program is yet to be exactly determined, but the Albers-sponsored version of the bill estimates costs to reach $84,500 and state savings of $103,000. The Harden version did not give any specific figures since it claims that the state will not lose any amount for the program.

Meanwhile, state officials in Atlanta said that they will be shouldering the cost of a computer system needed by the drug testing program. An estimated $200,000 will be spent on the system and the cost of the actual drug testing will be deducted from the budget given to welfare recipients as stated in the original proposal sponsored by Harden.

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