By MORGAN MANNS
Organizations such as CARSA (Community Actions for Reducing Substance Abuse) are working to increase drug awareness and decrease the percentage of youth and adults who use or abuse drugs.
“We’re responsible for community outreach,” Charla VanOsdol, CARSA coordinator, said. “We don’t work one on one with individuals. … We do more environmental prevention strategies.”
According to a Seneca County Health Assessment, 65 percent of youth in the county in grades 6-12 reported consuming alcohol at least once in their lifetimes in 2005. That number decreased to 50 percent in 2013.
CARSA is a coalition in Seneca County that runs through the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties. Funded with local levy dollars, it was founded in 2006 after receiving a Drug-Free Communities Grant to reduce substance abuse among youth, help strengthen collaboration, enhance intergovernmental communication and enable communities to conduct data-driven research-based prevention planning, according to VanOsdol.
The coalition works with schools, colleges, government leaders, law enforcement agencies, parents and other community leaders and organizations to provide awareness and education regarding substance abuse to both the young and the old.
“We always target community,” VanOsdol said. “Whatever is timely or whatever we feel the community needs to know about. Our goal is to give the community an opportunity to have awareness.”
In 2013, 10 percent of adults in Seneca County indicated they were considered frequent drinkers, according to the assessment. Five percent of them reported they drove after drinking five or more alcoholic beverages.
CARSA focuses on drug-related trends within the community and connects with local agencies or organizations to inquire about their services. Their funds provide resources such as inviting speakers and representatives from those groups, that, in turn, provide education to the community.
One program coordinated through CARSA is Alcohol Server Knowledge Training, which is offered twice a year at no cost. All alcohol serving permit holders in Seneca County are invited to attend. A representative addresses availability and access of alcoholic substances. They educate permit holders about the law in relationship to alcohol, acceptable operator’s licenses and more, according to VanOsdol.
“It’s against the law to sell to someone that is impaired,” she said. “It’s also against the law to sell to them if they’re becoming intoxicated, such as at a bar. (Alcohol Server Training) is all about educating people, because if something would happen, they would be the one’s that are responsible.”
In addition to alcohol, CARSA focuses on substances including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs.
According to the health assessment, children in grades 6-12 in Seneca County reported their use of marijuana went down from 11 percent in 2005 to nine percent in 2013 and their use of cocaine has gone down from five percent in 2005 to two percent in 2013.
“We as a coalition can’t do anything. We look at trends before they become common place,” she said, using the multiple drug busts involving heroin as an example. “Then we become a voice and an agent to bring in those groups who can provide education to the community about these community norms so that parents and government leaders and teachers can take action to change them.”
VanOsdol said children of parents who talk to their kids about drugs are 50 percent less likely to use them. CARSA points parents and their children in the right direction to help prevent or stop substance abuse through programs such as Start Talking, which gives parents, guardians, educators and community leaders the tools to start the conversation with their youth about the importance of living healthy, drug-free lives.
“I think people want to be able to do something about it, which is why we bring speakers in,” VanOsdol said. “Sometimes when you see things that are happening you say ‘I wish there was more I could do.’ When we look back at what we’ve done as a coalition, we know we’ve done something to reduce substance abuse in our area.”
CARSA hosts meetings at 8:30 a.m. the first Wednesday of every month except in July. The next meeting is slated for Aug. 6 at Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services, 76 Ashwood Rd., Tiffin. Members of the public are welcome to attend.
“I think we all have our role as a community,” VanOsdol said. “Law enforcement does their part, parents have their roles, government leaders have theirs. “¦ Our role is to increase awareness and educate the community about the substances that are out there; to provide information to the community. And that’s what we do.”
For more information on CARSA, visit www.mhrsbssw.org or contact VanOsdol at 419-448-9440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Start Talking, visit www.StartTalking.Ohio.gov.