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Youth groups combat drugs

Eighth graders in Island County are more likely to use meth, crack/cocaine or inhalants than their peers across the state.

According to a 2003 Island County Health Department study, more than 6 percent of eighth graders reported using inhalants, compared to the state average of less than 3 percent.

Figures like this are why two local youth agencies are pairing up to combat substance abuse.

“Frankly, the community needs it,” Big Brothers Big Sisters Coordinator Peggy Stanford said. “If there’s anything the community does, it should be to react to kids’ needs.”

Thanks to an $18,000 boost through the county health department, BBBS and the Boys and Girls Club will be able to implement new programs that are designed to keep Island County youth off drugs.

Boys and Girls Club Director Roosevelt Rumble said that the funds will benefit a team of youth that gives presentations about the danger of drugs, smoking and drinking. The team discusses the effects and the alternatives to drug use.

“When you talk substance abuse to youth, we must find out what are the alternatives,” Rumble said. “Every fund you get, if you can reach more kids — the more it helps.”

The collaboration is a familiar one, Stanford said. Because they serve the same population, BBBS and the Boys and Girls Club find that working together is an effective way to reach the most people. BBBS pairs younger children with an older mentor that provides stable, safe and intelligent companionship.

At the Boys and Girls Club, children have a wide variety of activities, such as group outings, roller skating and a computer lab, at their disposal.

“The goal is not to reinvent something; It’s to have more kids served,” Stanford said. “We want more kids involved in better activities.”

BBBS currently has 169 “littles” waiting for their “bigs.” And the need for intervention is there, Stanford said.

“I have seen fourth and fifth graders involved in really negative activities,” she said. “I think they get involved in drugs and alcohol because it’s a group activity. In kids’ minds, they want to belong.”

The ability to reach more people is the focus of the grant. The lack of funding keeps BBBS from being able to pair the children on the waiting list.

“When a parent comes knocking on your door, you want to be able to help them,” Stanford said.

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