Stand Strong Coalition plots ways to reach Lincolnshire area parents about drugs

“It doesn’t take a kid getting killed.”

Elise Houptman, a mother of three teens, was one of about 25 stakeholders who came to the second meeting of the Stevenson High School-area anti-drug community group and one of several participants who expressed alarm at the number of other parents convinced that their families will be immune to the dangers of substance abuses.

The Stand Strong Coalition covered a number of topics during its July 15 gathering in Lincolnshire Village Hall, but foremost among them was how local parents could be coaxed into believing that they might not outsmart both the law enforcers and the criminals.

“My gut feeling is we’re going to focus on parent education,” said Jamie Epstein, the recent startup’s organizer. “Maybe some of the problem is the parents aren’t giving the proper consequences in their house.”

The Stand Strong Coalition, which held its first meeting May 29, hopes to serve the families living in the Stevenson district and its feeder schools with drug-abuse prevention programs and training. The group plans to become part of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, an assembly of more than 5,000 volunteer groups.

Epstein noted that a significant amount of grant funding is accessible to give teeth to the good intentions of groups like Stand Strong. She said her coalition will first seek a $75,000 Drug Free Community grant from the federal government, which the Stand Strong leadership hopes to use to receive mentoring from established counterparts.

After a year of mentoring, Stand Strong will be eligible to apply for a $125,000 federal grant, which it could use on prevention programs and materials.

A wide variety of interests came to the second meeting: officers and deputies from Lincolnshire, Buffalo Grove and Lake County; state prosecutors; educators from Stevenson and Daniel Wright Junior High; Chelsea Laliberte, the co-founder of Live4Lali, Inc., a Lake Zurich-based substance-abuse non-profit; health care providers; and more.

The discussion covered state and local laws, which drugs are most popular among local teens at the moment — “Every drug arrest I’ve made at Stevenson has been prescription pills, period,” said Lincolnshire officer Tom Branick — and more, but came to focus on permissive parents.

“The kids know who the cool parents are,” said Lake County deputy Roman Buchberger.

Branick spoke about the difficulties he and school resource officers at other nearby schools have in getting parents to come to drug-awareness sessions. Several parents lamented sending their kids to parties, only to find out later that the home’s parents were serving alcohol under the auspice of, “As long as they stay here, they’re safe.”

The group may have found a link to an effective message: Convince parents that alcohol and drugs will impede their students’ paths toward success.

Epstein said she was looking forward to assembling more partners and defining what the group will become. The veteran of several non-profit ventures said the Stevenson landscape has been full of helpful participants.

“I’ve never had an easier time getting volunteers than this,” she said.

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