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SCV officials hold 'Pills Kill' symposium

Event addresses issue of teen drug abuse

Posted: August 27, 2014 10:13 p.m.
Updated: August 27, 2014 10:13 p.m.

Four years ago, when sheriff’s, city and school officials realized the extent of heroin use among Santa Clarita teens, they launched a number of far-reaching initiatives to tackle the problem.

On Wednesday, at the fourth in a series of community symposiums aimed at raising awareness about teen drug use, “Pills Kill: Prescription to Addiction,” officials credited those actions with helping to bring down drug abuse overall in the community, particularly drug overdoses.

“Four years ago, when we held our first community forum, we had 16 heroin overdoses,” Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin told about 100 people, mostly concerned parents who attended the event at the Santa Clarita Activities Center.

“Last year, that number of 16 was down to four, and this year we’ve had three,” Striplin said. “I really want to believe that the community coming together in addressing this issue has had an impact.”

But the fight against teen drug abuse “is not something that’s ever finished. It’s something that we have to continue to fight,” Striplin said.

To keep the battle going, Wednesday’s symposium focused on the abuse of prescription drugs. A panel of experts, including Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Roosevelt Johnson, William S. Hart Union High School District Superintendent Robert Challinor and others, discussed the facts about prescription pill abuse, the signs of abuse and what parents can do to help their children.

Before the panel discussion, 18 different nonprofit groups that specialize in counseling for teens and parents provided information and referral information.

“We heard about this and decided to come,” said Jonda Brooks of Panorama City, who volunteers for Because I Love, a San Fernando Valley nonprofit family crisis support group.

Although marijuana remains the most abused drug among local high school students, overdoses involving prescription drugs remain a serious problem in the community, Johnson said. Of the three overdoses this year, one was from prescription drugs, he added.

In response to teen drug abuse in general, city and sheriff’s officials created a juvenile intervention team, which visits schools to talk to teens.

That effort has paid off, Johnson said, with thousands of local students signing pledges to remain drug free. But more needs to be done, he said, including making sure pharmacies are complying with the law.

Recently, intervention team members sent letters to local pharmacists, “letting them know we’re going to pay them a visit,” Johnson said.

But the major source of prescription pill abuse remains the family medicine cabinet, he added.

“The prescriptions that are being abused here in Santa Clarita are being abused by people going into the medicine cabinets in your homes — and it’s your own kids going into those medicine cabinets,” Johnson said.

Mike Lewis of the Drug Enforcement Administration informed the audience about the National Take-Back initiative Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when people can bring unwanted prescription drugs to the Santa Clarita Valley station for disposal.

“It’s a no-questions-asked event,” Lewis said. “You just simply walk up, drop it in the collection box, and we’ll take care of disposing it.”


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