By Stephen K. Peeples
Santa Clarita Valley teens and young adults will take center stage to tell their side of the story at “Teens Tell It Like It Is,” a forum on drugs and drug abuse in the SCV set for the ACTION Family Zone in Canyon Country on Thursday, Nov. 29, starting at 6 p.m.
“This event’s going to be unlike any other event in the sense that it’s entirely teen driven, the host is a teenager, we’re going to have a teen panel and they’re going to tell us exactly what’s going on in the Santa Clarita Valley in terms of drug use,” said Bob Sharits, an ACTION Family Counseling coordinator. “So it’s exactly what the title says – SCV teens tell it like it is.”
“We’ve been listening to all us experts talk about drugs and what’s going on with our kids in Santa Clarita and all that stuff – why not hear it from the real experts – the kids themselves?” said Cary Quashen, head of ACTION Family Counseling. “Let them tell us what’s really going on – where the drugs are coming from, how they get it, and all that other information I think it’s super-important. They really do have all the answers.”
“Teens Tell it Like it Is” is designed to raise awareness of the drug abuse problem in the SCV, where so far this year, 10 local residents have died from heroin or opiate-related prescription drugs, and four addicts have committed suicide, according to Bob Wachsmuth, who keeps track of those statistics as a detective on the Juvenile Intervention Team based at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station..
Most recently, 22-year-old Carlie Renee Coulter of Newhall died of an apparent heroin overdose.
There were five heroin overdoses in all of 2011, according to Wachsmuth.
The Nov. 29 event will start at 6 p.m. with a resource fair, where vendors who work with local teens will have booths set up to provide information and contacts for counseling and other services. “We’re inviting at least 10 different organizations from our community to come and be part of that resource fair,” Sharits said.
At 7 p.m., experts will briefly share the latest information from their standpoint about drug abuse among local young people, then a panel of teens will take over and share their experiences.
“The professionals will tell us what they’re seeing in their different capacities,” Sharits said. “Then they’re going to sit down and the teens are going to step up and tell their stories.”
The experts include Alissa Myatt, head of Social Services at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital; Mary Chester, a prevention and intervention specialist with the Hart school district; and Bill Velek, a detective assigned to the Juvenile Intervention Team at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
The teen panel will include a mother and her 16-year-old daughter, both of them in recovery; an 18-year-old methamphetamine addict in recovery; and a 19-year-old heroin addict in recovery, Sharits said.
Each will speak for about seven minutes, and the final half hour will be a Q&A session.
“They’re going to answer any questions that a parent in the audience might have,” he said. “Our audience is really geared toward parents and families in the community, but everyone is welcome.”
Quashen said the “Tell it…” event was initiated by young people he works with as head of ACTION.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, but when the kids approached me, I was jumping for joy, saying, ‘Wow, this is exciting, let’s do this!’” he said. “It’s exciting that the kids want to do this right now. They really want the information to get out. They’re telling me, ‘Enough’s enough.’ They’ve had enough of all this, too, and they want to make a difference.”
The event is all about education, Quashen said. “Education’s everything. Knowledge is power. And the more knowledge we have, the more power we give to teens and their parents. But really, if you think about it, most parents spend — as I’ve been screaming about over the last year — between two and 10 minutes (a day) with their kids, so how can parents really know what’s going on?
“So our goal for ‘Teens Tell it Like it Is’ is to get the message out about exactly what’s going on, what parents need to know, what parents need to look for, and when they find it, what they need to do to help combat it,” Quashen said.
Find the ACTION Family Zone at 20655 Soledad Canyon Road, #24, accross from the Home Depot in Canyon Country 91351.
For more information, call 661-467-2714 or visit www.actionfamilycounseling.com.