Harford plan targets drug use by youths County leaders also focus on smoking and drinking

September 17, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Harford County officials unveiled a plan yesterday to stem youth drinking, smoking and drug use that calls for alcohol education, a code of conduct and development of drug prevention strategies by school improvement teams.

The plan -- drawn up by a task force of 42 community, business, government, law enforcement and school leaders -- also suggests a possible tip hot line that students could call to report drug activity.

"If you look at the statistics, the problem has not gone away," said County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. "In the past, the attitude has been 'there are no drugs in my community.' But now people realize it's an issue everywhere."

Joining her on the steps of the County Courthouse were School Superintendent Jeffery N. Grotsky, Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows, State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly and others concerned about youth substance abuse.

Officials cited the most recent Maryland Adolescent Drug Use Survey, which showed that almost half of the state's high school seniors questioned in 1996 said they had smoked tobacco during the 30 days before the survey, and nearly three-quarters said they had consumed beer, wine or liquor during the same period.

Grotsky said the group effort underscores that drug and alcohol abuse are not just a problem of the school system.

"When we first put this team together, the first thing we said we were not going to do is point fingers," said Grotsky, who has been meeting with team members for almost a year. "If there are drugs in the school, then there are drugs in the community, and it's very clear to us that the only way to solve the problem is to bring everyone together to work on it."

Yesterday, Erik Herz, the student representative to the county Board of Education, signed the youth code of conduct, pledging avoid drugs and alcohol. Margrit Herz pledged to support her son.

Erik, 17, a senior at North Harford High School, said he believes many students adhere to the code.

"I think students are going to take it very seriously," he said. "If it helps just one student, then it will make a difference."

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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