As the Newton County Community Coalition (NCCC) continues to develop and act on strategies to combat drug and alcohol abuse and other risky behaviors by area youth, 40th Circuit Court Chief Juvenile Officer Marty Yust delivered a report Tuesday that detailed what his office is dealing with regarding drug and alcohol abuse by minors countywide.

As the Newton County Community Coalition (NCCC) continues to develop and act on strategies to combat drug and alcohol abuse and other risky behaviors by area youth, 40th Circuit Court Chief Juvenile Officer Marty Yust delivered a report Tuesday that detailed what his office is dealing with regarding drug and alcohol abuse by minors countywide.
“We’re all affected in one way, shape or form, we know somebody – whether it’s a family member, friend, loved ones – have been affected by substance abuse,” Yust said. “We see it every day. Law enforcement sees it. We see it. Schools see it as well as all the professionals in the community see it, so it’s affected everybody, whether it’s directly or not.”
In 2015, the office handled 30 minor in possession cases, which he said is a high number of minor in possession of alcohol cases, and added that most of those came from a couple of juvenile parties that were busted by law enforcement.
“With that we will talk to the parents and see what else is going on; they may have other underlying drug issues,” Yust said. “Or we’ll give them an assessment to see if further counseling or drug treatment is needed.”
Some go into the drug court programs, he said.
Fourteen juveniles were charged with THC violations last year for either distribution or possession of marijuana, which Yust said is a low number.
“That’s not including all the stealing, burglary, property damage, beyond parental control that we get that have substance abuse issues tied to them,” he said. “And possession of a controlled substance – five – that doesn’t sound like a lot, but again, that’s five that’s been caught with possession; and all five of those were at the schools. So they brought the drugs to school and were either charged with distribution or possession of a narcotic.”
So far in 2016 the office has handled eight MIPs, 11 have been charged with THC possession; a rising number and Yust said that today’s marijuana has a much higher concentration of THC than in the past. Also rising is possession of prescription medication, as four have been nabbed this year, all in the schools, he said.
Kids are taking “a bunch of pills and chasing them with alcohol,” which Yust called a “deadly combination,” and shared the story of a kid who took a pill prescribed to his parent and was dead 15 minutes later.
“So we talk to these parents and kids: ‘You cannot use this medication that’s not prescribed to you; you don’t know if you are going to have an allergic reaction to it or not.’ But kids, they don’t care,” Yust said.
“Just like with marijuana. They’re like, ‘It’s legal.’ Well, here it’s not, and hopefully it doesn’t become legal, but in other states it is legal and the kids don’t understand that. Their attitude is, ‘Hey, it’s just weed.’ Well it’s not just weed,” he said.
Yust classified marijuana as a “gateway” drug that leads users to “bigger and better and more powerful drugs;” and declared that 90 percent of the people he sees in the drug court began with marijuana, and half of them are on methamphetamine when they come into the program.
We have entered an era when “kids don’t really care,” and he articulated that is why the coalition has assembled a team of various professionals and community members who are working to educate our youth; whom he said are not bad kids, but kids that have a variety of issues that lead them to substance abuse.
Yust told the story of a young lady who was selling prescription drugs at school because she was tired of being bullied and wanted to fit in somewhere.
“She was not a user, and I truly believe that she didn’t use,” he said. “She wanted to fit in. She wanted a crowd to fit into and if that’s the only crowd she could do, that’s the crowd she would get.”
Kids are stealing drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets and Yust warned against the thought that “my child wouldn’t do that,” as everyone knows someone to which that has happened, including within his own family.
“So this is near and dear to my heart so we take care of the kids now so they don’t become adults sitting in prison,” he said.
“Causing everybody else and the community havoc because when they get high they do things they typically don’t do. So we have to get to their story,” Yust said. “We have to understand where they came from, we have to understand why they are doing what they are doing so we can educate them to quit doing that.”
Treatment includes counseling, also for parents, because sometimes Yust said the parents are using or supplying their child with drugs. He spoke of a teenaged girl who was pimped out by her mother to get methamphetamines, and said they must understand that this lifestyle is all some of these kids know before even trying to get to them. In this case, it worked.
“She’s doing well now,” Yust said. “She’s in college, she’s doing great; but we had to figure out why she was doing what she was doing to figure out what we needed to do to treat that, because that’s what she knew.”
Parents also being involved adds to the challenge of helping their kids, he said, after relating another case of a mother giving her son money to buy marijuana and then smoking it with him because he got it.
“That’s what these kids know, so it’s no big deal,” Yust said. “When you’re trying to tell them ‘no, stop using,’ give them drug tests, make sure they are going to counseling, and their parent is providing it or using it with them, it’s hard.
“And that’s why we as a community have to get together, educate our youth, and their parents alike,” he said. “We have to educate them to make sure that they understand the dangers of what’s out there nowadays.”
Jamie Emery, Crowder College Behavior Support Center director, noted a program when she went to Seneca High School in which athletes and cheerleaders made presentations about good choices to younger students and wondered aloud if that could be repeated in the schools.
“That’s going to be more valuable than anything because children are going to listen to older kids more than they are going to listen to an adult,” Emery said.
Pharmacist Tim Mitchell mentioned the “Eyes Wide Open” program that was previously instituted in Neosho schools, what he calls an “eye opener” for parents and students.
Marlissa Diggs with the Alliance of Southwest Missouri opened the monthly noon meeting in the Talkington Foundation/Kelly Club by announcing a mini-grant application to place billboards of prescription drug and heroin awareness in Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties.
Diggs also spoke of planning a large regional forum to assemble a variety of professionals from all aspects of the community to provide answers to parents, as she said people are asking for this information to be informed on how to recognize and prevent their children from substance abuse.
A recent youth summit paired kids from all walks of life, and she said the group noted that hearing the stories of others was their favorite part of the day. Diggs highlighted two girls who come from a “Beaver Cleaver” perfect type home who were grouped with a couple of boys who never knew who would be crashed out on the couch from the party the night before when they woke up each day.
“Mom and dad pulling them out of class, he actually told the story of his dad pulling him out of class for a family emergency to take his lunch money to go buy drugs,” she related. “So these girls, I guess they just heard tales, because they had no idea that other people’s lives were like that.”
Kylie Enloe reported that a Youth Board of students from Neosho, East Newton and Seneca high schools she heads up through the NCCC have changed their name to Youth Changing Youth.
The students want to make a difference in their schools and Enloe said they are meeting regularly to spread awareness about drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, bullying and other issues they plan to work on within their schools.
Mitchell announced that the recent Drug Take Back event took 65 pounds of unused prescription drugs out of medicine cabinets in and around Seneca, and Neosho police accepted 56 pounds of drugs to be destroyed by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). The Drug Take Back bin in the sheriff’s department was full, and he said 15 pounds were taken from the permanent bin in the Neosho Police Department lobby.
The bi-annual effort is primarily aimed at raising awareness, Mitchell said. “In all fairness I think it’s just to let people know what we are doing and what prescription drug abuse can turn into real quickly,” he said.
Mitchell hopes to get Granby involved again in the next event this fall, and invited the Diamond community to get on board. He encouraged the creation of signs for each locale to get motorists talking and asking questions when they travel by those sites.
“I think there’s definitely a need to continue to raise awareness,” Mitchell said.