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April 3, 2014

Town hall meeting on drugs and alcohol draws large crowd in White Springs

Jasper — The Hamilton County Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Coalition held their annual town hall meeting, this time in White Springs, to give the community an opportunity to learn about issues in the world of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as other social issues facing young people today.

A generous crowd of local residents attended the meeting, which was held at the Stephen Foster Memorial Museum on Tuesday, March 25.

Executive Director of the Coalition, Grace McDonald, welcomed all the guests and explained how the evening would progress, which began with a meal of barbecued pork, coleslaw, baked beans and drinks, while a short eye-opening video about underage drinking was played.

“We are proud that we have been funded some money to help us put on this town hall meeting for you through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), a special grant for town hall meetings to address underage drinking,” said McDonald. “We will be addressing that, as well as other issues that go along with it that are affecting our young people and ultimately our entire population.”

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Emily Lumpkin said there have been incidents in the county over the last year that involved deaths from underage drinking, as well incidents of adults hosting parties where young people have been allowed to consume alcohol.

“That’s against the law,” said Lumpkin.

Lumpkin encouraged people to call the Sheriff’s Office if they suspect underage drinking is going on.

“We would rather go and break them apart than to have a funeral for a child,” Lumpkin said.

Statistics show that in Hamilton County, underage drinking by middle school students went down from 8.6 percent in 2010 to 2.8 percent in 2012. At the high school level, however, the figures went up from 10.1 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2012, according to a report Lumpkin quoted.

“We have our jobs cut out for us here in Hamilton County,” she said.

K2 Spice and bath salts, Lumpkin said, are still an issue in the county.

“We’ve had a lot of kids who have smoked K2 for the first time and they do some crazy stuff,” said Lumpkin. “They do some real crazy stuff. Some of them end up at the booking desk and some of them end up in the hospital...almost dead.”

Lumpkin briefly touched on the subject of medical marijuana legalization in Florida, which is set to be on the ballot for the Nov. 4 elections.

“All the people who are pushing for the marijuana, they just want to get high or they want to make that money,” Lumpkin said. “Marijuana is dangerous in all forms. There are no medical studies that show marijuana is helpful.”

McDonald said she learned at a recent conference on marijuana, that California, if they had the opportunity to go back in time, would have stopped the medical marijuana legislation from passing.

“Big money was behind it and that’s why it went through there,” she said. “They say it’s everybody using it. It’s not the people that are sick. It’s destroying neighborhoods and it’s making things very unsafe. They told us at that summit to do everything you can in Florida to not make it happen there.”

After the meal, it was time for the breakout sessions. At each table, representatives from the community were on hand to discuss and answer questions on a variety of subjects, such as prescription drug abuse, alcohol and drug treatment, binge drinking and marijuana, candy flavored tobacco and tobacco cessation, chronic disease issues, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, the juvenile justice system and local issues specific to White Springs.

Guests were allotted about 12 minutes at each table and then it was on to another table of their choice.

Sgt. Lumpkin reminded everyone that there is a service in Hamilton County called AMI Kids that is available for children who have been suspended from school. It is located at the old high school in the main building.

“We have a program that will help those kids and their families, and help those kids get back in school,” said Lumpkin. “With our dropout and expulsion rate being so high, we need something and we’ve got it right here.”

Before the evening was over, guests filled out an evaluation form of the program and then 12 people got to take home some wonderful door prizes.

“They all seemed to enjoy them,” said McDonald.

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