Sierra Sands tackles youth substance abuse

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A district-wide notification went out this week to parents of students in Sierra Sands Unified School District encouraging parents to participate in an April 17 discussion about drug use in the Indian Wells Valley.

“Adolescent substance abuse is on the rise in our schools and community, so I have asked several of our community leaders to share information and resources about this subject to assist those in need,” said SSUSD Superintendent Ernie Bell.

He said that, in particular, the impact of substance abuse on local students has been much more significant in recent years.

“We’ve had several incidents where students have gotten involved with an addictive substance, not really knowing what they were getting into, and created a medical emergency in their homes or in our schools,” said Bell.

“This is of course a very concerning trend to us as a community, so I am encouraging all parents to attend.”

Ashley Glover, a crime prevention specialist for Kern County, will present information to the audience. Following that presentation, Bell will lead a panel discussion with Glover and other local leaders who will be there to share information about resources available to assist those in need of help.

“The bottom line is we need to get some help for our students,” said Bell. “Instead of reacting after a student is already in crisis, we want to work together to see what we can do proactively to prevent one.”

Capt. Jed McLaughlin of the Ridgecrest Police Department reiterated the importance of early intervention, and noted that his department has seen success with the Teen Court, a peer accountability program, and with hiring a substance abuse counselor for local teens.

“If you look at crime statistics, more than half are somehow connected to substance abuse,” said McLaughlin. Whether that’s domestic violence by someone under the influence of a controlled substance or theft by someone looking to support a habit or an arrest of someone for possession, use or intent to distribute, “it’s a bigger problem than most people probably realize.”

He added that many parents don’t realize how much the average student is exposed to illegal substances. “Look on our kids’ phones and see what information they are looking at — you just might be amazed,” he said.

“This is something we didn’t have to deal with when we were growing up, but social media has changed our culture. I think a lot of people don’t realize the ramifications of this.

“The good thing is that with Ashley Glover, she knows all the trends — probably even things I wouldn’t know to look for.”

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Burroughs High School Parker Performing Arts Center.

Story First Published: 2017-04-14