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Alcohol, tobacco and drug use on the rise

A different approach may be needed to combat the high number of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse cases in Harrison County.
Harrison County is above both the state and national averages in teenage alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, according to a survey compiled by Metro United Way and reported to the county council Monday night by recent South Central High School graduate Michael Smith.
Smith was introduced by Jeff Skaggs, a member of the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.
Smith said one of the most surprising aspects of the survey, which was given to all county 10th-graders in 2006 and 2008, was how little families were communicating.
‘That’s shocking to me,’ Smith said.
He said the lack of communication is leading to support issues that could become alcohol or drug use issues. Just 19 percent of kids seek counsel from their parents, the survey showed.
Another eye-popping statistic from the survey, Smith said, was that 53 percent of students believed their peers were positive role models while only 16 percent said parents were a positive influence.
‘If I wasn’t expected to do good things and I wasn’t pushed to do it, it wouldn’t have gotten done,’ Smith said.
Other results from the survey showed that 65 percent of Harrison County’s 11th-graders have used alcohol within the past year, which is more than 15 percent higher than the state average.
‘We’re a lot higher than not only the state, but also the national (average),’ Skaggs said.
The student survey also detailed that 6.5 percent of 11th-graders and 4 percent of 12th-graders reported having used meth, compared to the state averages of 2.6 and 2.7 percent, respectively.
Councilman Jim Heitkemper said the survey could be used for anyone who deals with social problems.
‘It’s a pretty good thermometer gauge,’ he said.
Skaggs said the county is spending money on reactionary programs, but more resources should focus on preventative measures or environmental strategies.
‘When it comes to true prevention initiatives, we’re kind of lacking,’ he said.
One such environmental strategy is curbing the supply of over-the-counter drugs to youths.
Shawn Donahue, the county council’s legal counsel, said alcohol abuse cases spiked when Walmart Supercenter in Corydon began selling hard liquor. He said many juveniles admitted to stealing from the store.
The HCSAPC applied for a federal grant to provide funds for more preventative measures. If the grant fails, Skaggs said, the coalition will come back before the county board of commissioners and county council to request funding.
‘If it’s not an environmental strategy, the federal government is not going to fund you,’ Skaggs said.
In other news Monday night, the council approved $1.2 million out of riverboat gaming funds for the Federal Drive and Pacer Court extension project; $25,524 for unemployment out of county general; and almost $19,350 for a comprehensive business policy revamping, also out of county general.
The council appointed Councilman Gordon Pendleton to the committee for the business policy. Pendleton joins Commissioner Terry Miller, who was appointed by his board.