May 25, 2016 Edition

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ATOD Coalition looking
to build on success

Gretchen Hunt

Another big step in prevention efforts was taken recently when the Lawrence County ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) Coalition opened its new office, located in the Black Rock City Hall.

An open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by State Drug Director Denny Altes, was held to celebrate having the facility available for coalition use.

Alison Johnson, project coordinator for the coalition, said in addition to having office space, which Black Rock is renting at a discounted price, the coalition also has the benefit of being able to use other facilities, such as the city's meeting room where the open house was held.

The coalition is also planning a town hall meeting and banquet for June 23 at 6 p.m. at the Black Rock City Hall. There will be an open discussion with a panel, including law enforcement and attorneys, and some awards will be presented.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP with Johnson by emailing or calling 870-759-1914 so that enough food can be prepared.

Coalition nearing
20-year mark

Amber Adams, chair of the coalition, said the success of the open house is building on the success of the coalition through the years.

"Big things are happening in Lawrence County - new industries, new businesses, new jail ... but the problems we face aren't new," she said. "Teen alcohol and drug use in Lawrence County isn't new - we all have lost loved ones. But our commitment to Lawrence County isn't new either - what is new is the great strides that have been made."

The coalition was formed in 1999 with a mini-grant, and has since completed many projects and prevention programs, many aimed at underage drinking.

The coalition is currently implementing a Drug Free Communities Support Program grant, designed to address underage prescription drug abuse and underage marijuana use.

Having Altes attend the open house, which is believed to be his first time in Lawrence County, was an incredible honor, according to Adams.

"Denny Altes, the state drug director, took time out of his busy schedule to attend the ribbon-cutting," she said. "We all left that day with new hope, new energy, new vigor. We are phenomenally grateful for our new friend and our old ones. We will do everything we can to help Lawrence County, because our belief in our children is anything but new."

Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale said they are glad to have the coalition based in the Black Rock City Hall.

"They are good neighbors," she said. "We are really happy to have them here."

Youth team

The coalition is also beginning efforts to start a youth branch of the coalition for students in sixth through 12th grade. An organizational meeting is set for June 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the Black Rock City Hall.

"The meeting will inform the students about ATOD and tell them the benefits of getting involved," Johnson said. "Hopefully we can get this started and have the youth begin implementing prevention programs. We need their input on what would reach their peers."

Interested youth are invited to attend the meeting or contact Johnson for more information.

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