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Published: 2/9/2005

Swanton: Inhalants targeted by coalition

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SWANTON - A community coalition, formed in response to problems of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use in the Swanton area, will explore the possibility of piloting an inhalant prevention program.

The program, which could be set up as part of the curriculum in schools, is one approach being considered as the coalition starts its efforts to prevent and reduce substance use and abuse.

Known as the Swanton Area Community Coalition, the organization recently filed articles of incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State office, said Colin McQuade, Fulton County Eastern District Court judge who has helped organize the group.

Since last fall area residents have been working with Deacon Dzierzawski, executive director of The Community Partnership, to form the group. The Community Partnership, based in Toledo, is a coalition dedicated to substance abuse prevention and intervention. The partnership has received federal funds to help build community coalitions.

The Community Partnership has received a $350,000 federal grant to focus on the prevention of methamphetamine and inhalant use in six area counties. Setting up a pilot inhalant prevention program is "on the coalition's plate" in Swanton, said Mr. Dzierzawski.

Results of a survey released last fall showed that Swanton has a higher level of inhalant use than other communities in the Toledo area, he said. "Inhalants are extremely dangerous. Inhalants are found in every single household," he said, referring to inhalants as the "hidden drug" because people don't expect children to use such things as cleaning products other than for cleaning purposes.

Swanton Superintendent Robin Rayfield said the survey data was a couple of years old and said that because Swanton is a smaller school than some in the Toledo area, "two or three kids reporting in a certain way could show a higher number."

However, he said that he's not discounting the survey which showed that tobacco usage is a critical area for Swanton. "We're not happy about it, and we need to change it. That's the whole purpose of the community coalition. It is not necessarily a coalition to combat drug use only, but it is to help teenagers make better decisions. Through programs and hard work, we hope to do that."

Mr. Rayfield, who is with the coalition, noted that this is a community effort, and emphasized that this is not another school program, although schools provide a place where students can be reached.

Swanton Police Chief Homer Chapa, who also is part of the coalition, said that there hasn't been any increase or decrease in the number of arrests related to students using inhalants, and said that there hasn't been any upswing in information about students using inhalants, either.

The coalition's mission statement is "Working together to create a strong, caring community, empowered to build excellence in both character and action."

According to organizers, the premise is to bring together representatives from education, government, religious, social services, fraternal organizations, health professionals, law enforcement, parents, and youth to work together to prevent and reduce substance use and abuse.

Survey results prompted interest in forming the coalition. Judge McQuade said that the survey results were "enlightening," but said that the community isn't in a "crisis mode." Rather, he said that he thinks the community is in the concern and awareness modes.

Meetings will be held to try to bring more people into the process, he said. Community events are being planned as part of the coalition's activities.

A movie night for junior high school students is being discussed, and perhaps a parent-student educational program near prom time, said Mr. Dzierzawski.



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