SUDDS community group wants bigger presence in Melvindale

By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers

MELVINDALE — The Stop Underage Drinking/Drugs Coalition approached the City Council for support to begin expanding its presence inside the city’s limits to educate young people about the misuse of drugs and alcohol.

Guidance Center Preventative Specialist Corey Beckwith said the SUDDS Coalition serves most of the Downriver area, but would like to begin specifically addressing the needs of Melvindale.

The group already has established a teen chapter at Melvindale High School to educate students about underage drug and alcohol use, but Beckwith said the group would like to “greatly expand the scope” of its activities to include all residents.

“We just received a Drug Free Communities grant and would like to get an early start on creating a relationship with city officials and the community,” he said. “This would allow us to begin conducting a needs assessment within the city to focus our efforts to the available need.

“We are looking to reach out to the Police and Fire departments, schools, parents, and the youth of the city to get a broad picture of what is going on.”

Guidance Center Program Supervisor Lisa Horvath said the group wants to pursue a “structured partnership” with the city, so the residents can reach them through the city’s website. The group also wants to gauge the potential of airing their meetings on the city’s cable channel.

The grant was given to the Guidance Center as part of the Drug Free Community Support Program funding, she said, which will provide SUDDS with the $125,000 yearly for five years. SUDDS is a community entity supported by the Guidance Center, Horvath said, with the goal to stop underage drinking and drug use or abuse in the Downriver community.

“SUDDS looks to educate youth, adults, and the community at large about the effects and consequences of underage drinking and substance use,” she said. “We look to collaborate with law enforcement and other community partners to build support, provide resources for those ready for recovery and treatment, and advocate for policies and ordinances that may curtail underage drinking and substance use.”

Horvath said the group also works with another Downriver group, Families Against Narcotics, that assists families already affected by drugs or alcohol. FAN Prevention Program Facilitator Elizabeth Johnson said the the two groups have similar missions, but they approach it from different aspects.

“What we try to do is support the families that have members who have alcohol or drug abuse issues,” Johnson said. “We attempt to introduce recovery and treatment to the addict and prevent drug-related deaths.”

FAN began in April 2013 with the goal of providing support to families with incidents of substance abuse, she said, and continue communicating the prevention message. She said FAN wants to address the negative perception associated with drug use.

“We partner with schools and speak to students because they may have a brother, or someone they know, who is using drugs or alcohol to communicate that there is another way to live life,” she said.

“Many of our members have lost family to drug addiction, so we also try to work with judges in the area and be available to help high-risk youths take some steps to turn their life around earlier.”

Johnson said some of her experiences with the health care industry show there is still a stigma about the people with substance abuse issues. She said FAN was formed to change that perception everywhere to address the real problem with substance abuse.

“These individuals need to be on the side of the patients. The core issue should be the health and behavioral issue in order to help that person,” she said. “(Drug use) doesn’t mean someone is a bad person. The proper education about identifying an addiction and supporting the user is very important.”

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)

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