Doug Terbeek, executive director of the Prevention Team, sees the need for continuing substance abuse education in the county.
October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.
The attention garnered by such a declaration is welcome by The Prevention Team, but members of the Ticonderoga-based drug education and prevention program know their work is an on-going effort.
“The drugs of choice seem to ebb and flow,” said Doug Terbeek, Prevention Team executive director. “Every generation needs to be taught about the dangers of substance abuse. It’s a never-ending battle.”
It’s a battle The Prevention Team has been waging for 27 years. Terbeek has been at its helm the entire time.
“It’s funny how things change, but really don’t,” he said. “We used to have a heroin problem, but that faded.Now we’re seeing heroin again. Cocaine seems to be coming back, too.”
With eight full-time employees, The Prevention Team is a non-profit agency providing education and prevention services for Essex County. It has educators and counselors in Elizabethtown-Lewis, Crown Point, Ticonderoga, Moriah, Minerva, Newcomb, Westport, Willsboro and Lake Placid schools.
“We try to make contact with every student at least once a year,” Terbeek said. “Obviously we can’t see every kid every day and there are some students we see more often than others.”
The Prevention Team is also active with adults, having formed partnerships in several communities to combat substance abuse. It sponsors a drinking-and-driving education program, trains servers and merchants about alcohol sales and operates an alcohol-awareness program for court-referred teens.
This past year the Prevention Team also played a lead role in efforts to ban synthetic marijuana, also know as K2, in New York State and lobbied the county board to prevent alcohol sales at the annual county fair.
“We do a lot of different things,” Terbeek said. “A lot of our programs are opportunistic; when we see a need we step in.”
In the past years the Prevention Team has conducted Walks Against Drugs, Youth to Youth programs, SAFE HOMES, Natural Helpers, Reconnecting Youth, FAST, Coaches and Captains, Boquet River Theatre Festival, Reality Check, Teen Institutes, Connecting Youth and Communities (CYC), One Second Exhibit 2008-2009, Prevention Team/Vermont Voltage Soccer Camps and BEST Walks.
Terbeek is pleased with the progress made in substance abuse prevention, but realizes more work needs to be done.
“We’ve made great progress on smoking (tobacco),” he said. “We have more restrictions and taxation on tobacco than ever and it’s working. Fewer people are smoking.
“We still have a lot to do on alcohol; that’s our top problem,” he added. “We need to educate people about the health-related issues and point out the tragedies associated with alcohol — the accidents, domestic violence.”
Terbeek said the same effort that has made smoking “socially unacceptable” has to made on alcohol abuse.
“It’s harder to smoke than it is to drink,” he said. “The price of cigarettes keep going up because of higher taxes. Alcohol taxes are lower today than they were in 1965.”
It’s not practical to expect people to stop using alcohol, Terbeek said.
“We don’t promote abstinence from alcohol,” he said. “We try to help people understand that they can drink responsibility; that they can have a good time without alcohol.”
The Prevention Team has no special events planned for National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, although it will observe Above the Influence Day on Oct. 18 and Red Ribbon Week Oct. 23-31. Red Ribbon Week honors the memory of Enrique (Kiki) Camarena, a federal agent killed by Mexican drug dealers in 1985.
President Barack Obama has issued a proclamation declaring October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.
“By providing strong support systems for our loved ones, and by talking with our children about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs, we can increase their chances of living long, healthy, and productive lives,” the president said. “During National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, we celebrate those dedicated to prevention efforts, and we renew our commitment to the well being of all Americans.
“The damage done by drugs is felt far beyond the millions of Americans with diagnosable substance abuse or dependence problems countless families and communities also live with the pain and heartbreak it causes. Relationships are destroyed, crime and violence blight communities, and dreams are shattered. Substance abuse touches every sector of our society, straining our health care and criminal justice systems.
“For all these reasons, my administration has made prevention a central component of our National Drug Control Strategy, and we have developed the first ever National Prevention Strategy. These strategies, inspired by the thousands of drug free coalitions across our country, recognize the power of community based prevention organizations, and suggest that prevention activities are most effective when informed by science, driven by state and local partnerships, and tuned to the specific needs of a community.”