11/12/07 — Task force will target substance abusers

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Task force will target substance abusers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 12, 2007 1:45 PM

The WATCH Substance Abuse Task Force is back in action.

Begun six years ago to address the need for substance abuse education and resources in the community, it has been dormant for more than a year.

D.J. Coles, a health educator and case manager with WATCH -- Wayne Action Teams for Community Health -- took on the role of acting chairman for the task force a few months ago.

He says he hopes to make a dent in the local problem of drug and alcohol abuse.

"Right now we are seeing that alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamines have crept into our community," he said. "It crosses all areas, affects all demographics, races and economic lines."

His greatest concern is for those who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

"I don't want our teens and our youth forgotten. If we can hit them right now, we'll have future adults who know how to break this cycle. I want to see that cycle broken," he said.

While in the short term Coles wants to see the task force effectively collaborating with existing agencies and organizations in the community, he aspires to be more than a "group that meets."

"We want to be a portal, giving them information, to be available for our teens and adults," he said. "But I also want to have true measurable outcomes -- tangible measures from what we do."

Coles envisions taking on a major project in the future, possibly in the form of a drug rehab center. Some may balk at the notion of possibly having such a place in their neighborhood, to which he counters, "Which would you rather have in your neighborhood, drugs or a drug rehab center?"

Teenagers are different now than they were years ago, and there needs to be something to reach them, Coles says. It may be idealistic, he noted, but he'd like to see a place to encourage kids to become pillars of the community rather than a detriment.

"Because of the demands of society, the economy, the housing market, I just don't want the kids lost in the mix," he said. "It's terribly difficult with all the things they're having to face. There's got to be something to reach these kids.

"I look forward to the day that a big youth facility will be built, a place where we could house teens -- to learn job skills, get their degree, an alternative for those that don't fit the normal bill or are growing up in an environment where they don't feel safe, where they can go and feel they can succeed."

In the meantime, the substance abuse task force is laying the groundwork, hoping to obtain future grant funding to further some of its mission.

The revamped task force currently has nine members, with a goal of capping it at 12.

Its next event will coincide with the Great American Smoke-Out, to support those quitting smoking, in the form of a 5K run on Nov. 15 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The "Quit Cold Turkey Run" has been held at the base for several years, but this year will be co-sponsored by the Substance Abuse Task Force. There is no entry fee, and participants are asked to be at the base visitors gate by 7:30 a.m. to obtain proper clearance, with the event to start at 8.

For more information on the run, call 731-6933 or 722-0578.