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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2005

Rossford: Use of drugs, alcohol average

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

On average, Rossford's youth use drugs and drink alcohol about as much as youths from other school districts in Wood County, according to a 2004 Rossford Area Student Survey.

The survey, sponsored by the Wood County Educational Services Center and the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board, compared Rossford youth in grades five through 12 with youths in the same grades from all other public school districts in Wood County.

Bill Ivoska, vice president for student services at Owens Community College, presented the study to Rossford City Council recently.

"There is smoking going on, there is drinking going on," Mr. Ivoska said, adding that the only area in which Rossford youths tip the scales above average is when it comes to smoking cigarettes. "It's lower than it ever was before, but it's still happening."

Council had asked Mr. Ivoska to present the survey results to them because although they approved applying for a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program grant in September to keep the program alive, they were curious to know the quality and effectiveness of the school district's substance abuse programs.

"The Rossford statistics don't differ greatly [from other districts in Wood County], but do we know what will happen if we do not sustain the program? No," said Mr. Ivoska, who has been conducting drug and alcohol surveys for 14 years, and who was hired by Larry Mershman, executive director of the county service board, to help with the survey.

The survey also found that alcohol is the biggest problem for all districts, as it always has been, but Mr. Ivoska said alcohol consumption was the lowest it has been in 14 years. However, the study found that 39 percent of Rossford seniors in high school binge drink, meaning they drink to get drunk. "To me, it's alarming," he said, adding that he was also concerned with marijuana because it seems to have become as popular as cigarette smoking.

He said there are three variables that influence whether youth try drugs or drink alcohol: peer approval, perceived risk, and accessibility.

He said Ecstasy drug use has declined because youth realized it was harmful, but the use of inhalants, and Oxycontin and narcotic painkillers increased because of accessibility.

"If it's not cool, kids won't do it," Mr. Ivoska said. "If kids don't see it as risky, they're more likely to use it."

Mr. Mershman said there has been a prevention program in Rossford for the last 20 years, and believes programs like DARE, which has been around since 1995, are effective, and Council President James Richards agreed.

Rossford DARE Officer Bill Hamilton said he feels as if he makes a difference in the schools teaching through the DARE program. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel that I affect someone," he said.

Rossford Mayor Bill Verbosky, Jr. said he would like to see council sit down with the Rossford Board of Education, Superintendent Luci Gernot, and members of the Rossford Police Department to study the results as a group.

"Prevention is always better than intervention," Mr. Ivoska said. "My fear is if we don't keep vigilant at prevention, rates will then climb."



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