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Editorial: YSUP Rowan joins the fight

As you might have noticed by now, the front page of today’s Insight section includes the 2018 National Drug & Alcohol IQ Challenge. The regular local news quiz will return next week, but this drug IQ test, if you will, offers insights into how much we know and probably don’t know about substance abuse in today’s world.

As expressed through the questions, a couple of things particularly stand out. So here’s a spoiler alert in case you haven’t taken the quiz: Don’t read any further. Take the quiz, then come back.

Question No. 5 asks how many people in the United States died in 2015 from pain reliever overdoses. The sobering answer is 22,598, and that figure doesn’t include the 13,000 people who died from heroin overdoses the same year. Opioid abuse keeps getting worse, and you realize why social workers, law enforcement, educators, clergy, healthcare professionals, politicians, parents and we folks in the media call it an epidemic.

Question No. 10 asks how many people 16 and older said in 2016 they had driven after taking illicit drugs. The answer is 12 million. If that doesn’t worry you, realize first these are just the people who admitted to driving under the influence of illicit drugs. You would have to think at least that many people would not cop to the fact.

Second, it’s troubling to recognize that many of these people are young drivers whose inexperience is compounded by being under the influence — a double whammy. Also in 2016, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20.7 million people 16 and older drove under the influence of alcohol.

Over the past year or so, much work has gone on behind the scenes in establishing YSUP Rowan, which stands for Youth Substance Use Prevention in Rowan County. Its main goal is prevention and reducing illegal use of alcohol and prescription medications by juveniles. Staff members with the Youth Services Bureau — primarily Karen South Jones and Liz Tennent — and the Center for Prevention Services have taken the lead in getting this new community effort going.

YSUP Rowan received a major boost in October 2017 when it received a five-year, $625,000 Drug-Free Communities grant from the federal government. And recently, the Youth Services Bureau staff and a committee have been doing preliminary work in discussing logos, launching a website, planning a two-day community forum in May, getting into schools and coming up with a 12-sector YSUP Rowan Coalition model.

The ultimate goal is for that 12-sector approach to be used in every community. And that is the key word — “community.” Addressing today’s opioid crisis has to start with the young, and it truly will take a village.

“We cannot arrest or treat our way out,” Tennent said this past week. “Prevention is the key.”

Good luck with today’s quiz.

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