Officials tackle prescription drug abuse
Swartz Creek -- Want to abuse drugs? Don't do it in Swartz Creek.
That's the message local police, school administrators and elected officials are hoping to send in a district hit hard by recent high-profile cases of prescription drug abuse.
"We want this community to know these things are being addressed. We're not letting the issue just go away," said Swartz Creek police Chief Rick Clolinger. "There's a whole range of things we're working on with the school as a partnership."
"This isn't about making parents do police work for us. It's about helping parents do a better job as parents," said Clayton Township police Chief Chuck Melki.
Some of the anti-drug measures in the works:
Home drug-testing kits sold at cost to parents through the police, schools and local businesses.
A city ordinance targeted at criminal distribution of prescription drugs.
A new task force comprised of parents, school officials and police.
Increased visibility of drug dogs and locker searches at the schools.
"At the very least, they certainly aren't going to do any harm," parent Chuck Shults said of the proposals. "It's a good thing whenever we can invoke measures that put parents more in the driver's seat."
The issue hit home for the school district in December, when 15 high school students were suspended after a freshman was caught selling his father's Seroquel, a prescription drug used to treat adult schizophrenia.
Earlier this month, four middle school students were suspended after a special needs student sold dextroamphetamine, used to treat attention deficit disorder, to three of his seventh-grade classmates.
Possible criminal charges are still pending in both cases at the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office.
The difficulty in prosecuting such cases led Clolinger to ask city attorneys to draft a local ordinance that would make distributing a prescription drug a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. The proposed ordinance will be presented to the City Counci on Monday.
"The use of prescription as well as illicit narcotics needs to be curbed, and I think it starts with our children. The City Council is behind our police chief in this quest," said City Councilman Jason Christie. "Some people don't want to acknowledge the severity of drug problems at the K-12 level. Drugs are a much larger problem than a lot of people can imagine."
Meanwhile, home drug-testing kits will be available to Clayton Township residents starting March 25 at Clayton Township Hall for around $3. The one-use kits test urine for substances including marijuana, methamphetamine, LSD, Ecstasy, heroin and cocaine.
"We're not expecting parents to do this and then turn their kids in to the police. This is meant to be done anonymously," said Melki. "If they see there's a problem and they're willing to go the extra length to find drug counselling, we'll help put them in touch with the right county programs."
Superintendent Roy Pearson said he and Thomas Svitkovich, Genesee Intermediate School District superintendent, have discussed whether drug kits could be sold through the county school districts. Such kits are already being sold to parents in the Davison school district.
"This is a more global issue than just Swartz Creek or Davison. I'm hoping to convince other administrators to make this a unified, countywide effort," said Pearson. "There's strength in numbers and in having multiple organizations working on the same problem."
Clolinger said he's hoping to encourage local pharmacies to sell the kits at cost as a public service.
"That would give parents the chance to deal with it in the privacy of the home before bringing it to the school's attention," said Dawn Etzler, who has three children in the district's elementary and middle schools. "Once a child is labelled, it's hard to overcome. It sticks with them forever."
In-school drug searches may also be increased.
"We want students to know if you bring it on school grounds, you're likely to get caught," said Pearson. "We also want to make it very clear that lockers are not private property and can be searched at any time."
Discussion is also under way to create a task force of police and school officials to improve prevention measures and increase parent accountability.