Angela Plassmann: “Combating Drug Abuse in Our Schools”

Below is an article posted today on the website of Angela Plassmann, Ward 3 City Councilor, followed by selected slides from an October 14 presentation on youth harm prevention by Karen Jarvis-Vance. Starting at about 54 minutes on this video of her presentation, Ms. Jarvis-Vance notes:

“This is a prevention coalition, so when you’re talking about substance use prevention, you’re talking elementary and middle school. Once you get to high school, most of the time you’re talking about intervention, which is not something that the coalition will focus on, but it does have to be a part of the umbrella of what we do. Because when we help children that are in trouble, we send a message to the children that haven’t gotten in trouble yet, and to all the parents, and to the entire community. So it is something I’m really interested in looking at, too, how we partner up with Cooley Dickinson or other area agencies to have a more seamless referral process. Some of this is way beyond what we can do because the services in the state and particularly in this part of the state stink–extremely underfunded and just not there for our kids.”

From Councilor Plassmann’s website:

On October 14, I attended the Northampton School Committee meeting to watch the Northampton Youth and Families Assessment and Prevention presentation provided by Karen Jarvis-Vance, Director of Health Services, Health Education and Safety for the Northampton Public Schools. I first saw this presentation at a Social Services and Veterans Affairs Committee meeting. I was so impressed that I requested that it also be presented to City Councilors and the School Committee.

I addressed the School Committee members during the public comment portion of the meeting. I shared both public and personal information with the members to shed light on the presence of drugs in our schools and the severe impact drug use by children can have on a family. I hope that I might be able to help at least one family not have to suffer as I did in watching my child be drawn into addiction.

Here is a short YouTube video of my comments before the committee:

A transcript:

First, I would like to thank the members of the School Committee and Karen Jarvis-Vance for addressing the issue of drugs and our youth. I truly appreciate and respect all the hard work and consideration that you clearly have done to make this presentation. I am looking forward to having you also come before the City Council in the near future.

Similar to the issue of bullying, drug use by our youth is a sensitive and critical issue that unresolved can have and will have horrible consequences. Tonight, I am wearing two hats — one as a parent who watched my child struggle with drugs at a very young age and the other as a City Councilor from a ward for which drug use is an issue. All three of my children were initially exposed to drug use in the Northampton Public School system. One of my children, who is an adult now, is still using drugs and has left behind a good life to cling to her drug use and a life of disarray. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, worry about her and wish that I could have done something, anything to help her.

I would like to read my daughter’s own words to you because her words are far more powerful than anything I could tell you tonight.

I am 15 years old & madly in love. I’m a stoner, and I love LSD. I explore my mind with the help of weed, mushroom and acid.

2 more months to 4/20! My most favorite holiday of all! I’m not even kidding, I love it more than my birthday & Christmas. I celebrated it for the first time last year. As a matter of fact, that was a night of firsts, my first blunt & my first time hallucinating on weed and just weed.

At lunch, S—— told me that he’s not sober anymore. He has coke and he gave me a line….it was fun sitting in class with numb lips though…

What can be done? The first step is admitting we have a problem – that has not happened yet. This week, the remnants of a meth lab were discovered in my neighborhood on Bridge Street very close to our elementary school. “Northampton’s so-called drug use problem” is real. It’s here and it’s on our streets.

I believe that a workshop with representatives from the School Committee, City Councilors, police and concerned parents is long overdue and I will make a commitment tonight to facilitate and assist with these efforts. I have already made this commitment to Karen.

Third, I would like to see the School Department officials form a parent support/outreach group for those parents who desperately need advice and support when dealing with a child on drugs. I would have done anything to have had that support from this community. My husband and I frequented JFK and the High School given the issues that we had with our daughter and not once were we offered any information such as contact information for support or outreach or where to get help. We were alone fighting to save our child.

In closing, I would like to read excerpts from an email sent to me in my capacity as a City Councilor.

April 2, 2010

Dear Ms. Plassmann:

I recently read the article in the Gazette about drugs plaguing our teens here in Northampton. I am a parent of teens as well and have noticed this trend. I fight the battle each and every day and am almost at the end of my rope because of the lack of help out there for one child specifically.

I am writing to find out what you did as a family to battle this HUGE problem in our city schools.

I am tired!

Here is a 56-minute video of Ms. Jarvis-Vance’s presentation to the School Committee. (This video and the one above were recorded by Adam Cohen.)

Here are the slides from the presentation:

This ends the excerpt from Councilor Plassmann’s website. Here are additional selected slides from the above presentation:

See also:

Michael Bardsley: “Gauging Northampton’s drug problem” (4/24/10)
Last year, SPIFFY formed the Northampton Prevention Coalition, an organization that has the mission of preventing alcohol and illegal drug use by city youth. In addition to national research and professional trainers, this new coalition has access to data generated by the surveys of local teens.

For example, 44 percent of Northampton 10th-graders used alcohol within a given 30-day period and 19 percent engaged in binge drinking. In regard to the use of marijuana by Northampton’s 10th-graders, the survey shows it has jumped from 22.6 percent in 2007 to 35.8 percent in 2009…

I deeply believe that our community is capable of effectively addressing the issue of adolescents using alcohol and illegal drugs. However, adults must first put aside personal preferences and self-serving political agendas. Nothing less than the health and well-being of a younger generation is at stake.

WWLP: “Are drugs plaguing Northampton teens” (3/17/10)
[Northampton High School officials] say they are working with parents to make sure their students stay away from drugs…

…Students we spoke with say that’s not enough to stop drug use.

“Kids might feel neglected by their parents sometimes and want to go for an escape…”

A Dialogue on Marijuana Fines (2/28/10)
[Angela Plassmann:] The proposed fine increases are not primarily about the money. They are intended to provide a more serious deterrent to public use and to assist the police in enforcement.

You may not be aware, but the current law does not require a person caught with marijuana to identify himself to a police officer. A person could give a false name or even no name with impunity. In addition, the City Clerk’s office is charged with administering the citations and fines–another manpower draw on her already overburdened office. Increasing the fines would provide the City Clerk’s office with the funding to process the citations.

With regard to public discussion on the matter, the law is a result of a referendum question which the voters approved after considerable discussion. Many in the law enforcement and legal communities feel that the proponents’ campaign misled the general public. Most non-users have little idea of how much an ounce of marijuana really is, nor do I suspect the majority were aware of the non-identification clause. An ounce of marijuana is about half a sandwich bag full–which represents far more doses than what most people would consider a “small amount”. However, the Northampton proposal for discussion is not about the amount, it is about better deterring use of an illegal substance in public.