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Action team targets children’s drug use

Sylvania board focuses on educating parents

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The Sylvania Community Action Team includes Deb Chany, executive director, left, Julie Hoffman, vice president, and Fire Chief Jeffrey Kowalski, the group’s new president.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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With Sylvania Township Fire Chief Jeffrey Kowalski at the head of the Sylvania Community Action Team’s executive board, the organization will concentrate on sustaining its programs and alerting parents to the reality of drug use in Sylvania.

Chief Kowalski, who became the president of SCAT on July 1, will be working alongside returning vice president, Julie Hoffman. Chief Kowalski replaced Tracey Estep as president.

Mrs. Hoffman and Chief Kowalski said the board — which has several new members — faces two challenges: ensuring the longevity of the organization that has been serving Sylvania for more than 20 years and educating parents about teen drug use.

SCAT, committed to helping children make positive choices to live drug and alcohol-free, has received $125,000 each year for the last 10 years through the federally funded Drug-Free Communities Support Program. The funding expires in October, 2014, and the organization cannot apply for it again.

The money funded many of its programs including Drug Take Back days, Drug Take Back boxes at the Sylvania Township and city police departments, mock accidents each year at Southview and Northview high schools, and the popular 24-hour Relay Challenge. The money also pays the salaries of Executive Director Deb Chany and other part-time staff who coordinate outreach programs.

Mrs. Chany said that when SCAT first started in the 1980s they only dealt with potential risky behavior resulting from drinking and marijuana use. Today there is a mix of drugs used, and with more availability, Chief Kowalski said. Marijuana is now the gateway drug to synthetic bath salts, crack cocaine, and heroin — which is on the rise in Sylvania, he said. Prescription drug abuse among teens also is increasing. Children are abusing drugs as young as the eighth grade, he said.

Mrs. Chany said many kids have parents who use drugs with them, or minimize the problem of a child’s marijuana use because they think “I smoked marijuana when I was younger, and look at me, I have a job, I pay bills.” However the marijuana of today is more potent, pure, and addictive, she said, adding that it’s a myth that marijuana is nonhabit-forming.

Chief Kowalski has been on the SCAT board for four years and a part of the fire department and community for 36 years.

Mrs. Chany and Mrs. Hoffman said his high-profile position and visibility in the community will help SCAT receive more public exposure.

New officers Barbara Zona, who took over as secretary from Mike Jones, and Treasurer Allyson France, who replaced George France, have been members of the board for more than a year. Their terms end June 20, 2015.

For more information about SCAT, visit sylvaniascat.org or call 419-824-8588.

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