'Attitude' Called Key In Fighting Addiction

Steinberg Urges Teen Battle On Drugs, Alcohol

May 08, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Teen leaders should encourage their peers to form an anti-drug and alcohol "attitude," said Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg before honoring Liberty High junior Amy M. Hill for her work in drug abuse prevention.

"If we're going to really resolve this problem, that's where it lies," he said of prevention and education. "The bottom line is attitude."

Steinberg said similar public attitudes have influenced politicians to avoid being seen smoking cigarettes in public.

Steinberg chairs the governor's 2-year-old Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission, which met at the County Office Building here Monday.

The commission takes its meetings to each county and Baltimore City to gather information and opinion about a statewide policy, said spokeswoman Melody Ryan. The commission met once before in Carroll County, she said.

Hill chaired the committees that planned the Carroll County Youth Alcohol and Drug Summits. About 300 middle school and high school studentstook part in the second annual summit, which was conducted March 6.

Steinberg praised Hill for her leadership in planning the summits and other prevention activities among youth.

Steinberg said the fight against drugs starts with local teens and health, education and law enforcement officials.

"The state policy should be decided fromthe county up to the state, and not from the state down," Steinberg said.

Steinberg also praised Carroll County public schools for including drug and alcohol education in their curriculum and other initiatives to educate parents and help students at risk for abuse.

Floyd O. Pond, executive director of the commission, said he was impressed with the "Saturday School" program. Under this project, students caught skipping school, smoking or violating other rules attend an in-school suspension program on Saturday mornings.

Carroll County school officials have attributed a 32 percent drop in truancy, smoking and drug and alcohol infractions to the Saturday School program.

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said he believes the programhas in turn led to a decline in criminal activity because it doesn't"reward" truants with more time off from school through suspensions.

Carroll courts heard 28 percent fewer juvenile cases in 1990 over1989, while cases in surrounding counties went up.

During a presentation on county efforts to treat drug addicts, Dr. Janet Neslen, Carroll's health officer, told of funding problems and people on waiting lists for treatment.

Neslen said the biggest blow in the past two years was a federal regulation change that no longer allows patients in the Health Department's long-term treatment programs to receive Medicaid benefits.

Because of that, the Health Department is responsible for large medical bills for these patients, Neslen said. The resulting strain on the budget has forced the program to accept fewer people.

Steinberg also bemoaned government regulations that seem to work at cross-purposes and interfere with treatment.

"We've got to find some way to unravel that bureaucratic maze," he said.

Pondsaid he was impressed with the way officials in Carroll and other rural counties work together.

For example, he said, when there was no state money available for training public school teachers to address substance abuse among students, Carroll Community College got United Way and U.S. Department of Education money to start such programs.

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