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Forums to address drug use on Southend

"Meetings focus on drugsTwo meetings next week will put the spotlight on drugs in our schools and neighborhoods. The first, on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at the Free Methodist Church on Maxwelton Road, will address neighborhood concerns over a recent methamphetamine lab bust by the Island County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s personnel will host the 7 p.m. meeting.The second event will be a forum Wednesday, Nov. 10, at South Whidbey High School to give parents, students, and other community members a place to talk about the effect of illegal drug use on children. That meeting also begins at 7 p.m.In response to a recent drug related-murder that involved some South Whidbey residents, a small group of parents, students and local program volunteers have organized what will likely be a series of community forums to address the subject. The first forum will meet Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at the South Whidbey High School to discuss substance use and abuse on South Whidbey. “The intention of this group is to discuss drug use on South Whidbey and to provide a place for people to plug in if they need to, and get help,” said Mindy Magnusson, South Whidbey Youth Center executive director and one of the forum planners.This first meeting will consist of a panel of citizens and professionals including parents, two youths, law enforcement personnel and chemical dependency professionals. Following their presentation they will respond to questions and concerns from the audience. According to a study by the Island County/Stanwood Community Public Health and Safety Network, substance use is one of today’s most challenging health and social problems. Information received from Island County’s data profile for substance abuse indicates there are several areas that need attention: availability of drugs; community laws and attitudes favorable toward drug use and problem behavior; friends who engage in problem behavior; and a lack of commitment to school.Data that was collected from South Whidbey and Coupeville school districts as participants in the Washington State Survey of Adolescent Health Behaviors form the 1999 county profile on Risk and Protection for Substance Abuse Prevention Planning in Island County. The Washington State Department of Social & Health Services indicates that 80.6 percent of South Whidbey and Coupeville seniors responded that they have access to tobacco, alcohol and other drugs on Whidbey Island. Statewide the number is 77.8 percent. Community attitudes about drug use are reflected in laws and enforcement, social practices and expectations. Islandwide, 53.8 percent of high school seniors perceive that drug use is practiced and socially accepted, compared to 49.5 percent of the seniors statewide. Nearly 43 percent of Island high school seniors have a favorable attitude toward drug use, compared with 31 percent statewide. Eighty-three percent of Island seniors agree peer drug use is one of the strongest predictors of substance use among youth, compared with 84 percent statewide. Research has shown that drug use is significantly lower among students who expect to attend college than those who do not. Factors such as liking school, spending time on homework and perceiving their coursework as relevant are also negatively related to high levels of drug use. “When young people cease to see school as meaningful or important in their lives, they are at higher risk of engaging in unhealthy behavior,” McLaughlin said. "

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