The billboards feature the faces of area high school students whose lives were cut short through drug abuse. Other billboards are planned for placement on I-49 at Missouri Highway 86, and in the Goodman, Anderson, Joplin and Carthage areas.

The billboards feature the faces of area high school students whose lives were cut short through drug abuse. Other billboards are planned for placement on I-49 at Missouri Highway 86, and in the Goodman, Anderson, Joplin and Carthage areas.
Strengthening its push to eliminate drug and alcohol abuse and other risky behaviors by youth in the county, the Newton County Community Coalition (NCCC) encourages parents, youth and other community members to attend Tuesday's Prevention Conference at Crowder College.
"We have four guest speakers coming to talk about the dangers in youths' use of marijuana, opioids - prescription opiates - and synthetic drugs," said Tal Clubbs, NCCC Drug Free Communities grant coordinator. "It's important that everybody is educated on the dangers of youth. We're a community and whether it's a business owner, a young adult, we all take ownership in helping to prevent drug abuse in our community."
Keynote speaker Dr. Kevin Sabet is a national expert on the dangers of drug abuse in our youth, specifically marijuana use.
"I think that marijuana is a hot topic right now across the nation," Clubbs said. "I just want people to understand that our youth using marijuana is harmful to them."
Chuck Daugherty with ACT Missouri will expound on Dr. Sabet's discussion, and Clubbs said he will talk about the various marijuana products that are being marketed toward youth.
"Marijuana has evolved since the (19)60s, 70s and 80s and even the early 90s," he said. "Marijuana companies have been able to extract the THC - the component that gets you high in marijuana - and they've created marijuana edibles, which are gummy bears, candies, things like that, to market it to people to use to get intoxicated."
Marijuana edibles have led many to take much more than the intended dosage, as Clubbs said the recommendation on the package is to eat just a portion, or depending on the strength of the compound, it might just be one gummy bear.
"And when youth find these packages they are not eating the recommended serving size, they are eating the whole package," he said. "Here in Missouri it's illegal, but in Colorado and Washington it's legal for them to have that. We've had some cases here in Missouri where those gummy bears and packages of edibles have ended up in our youths' hands."
Aaron Garcia, a former addict, is now a registered nurse who has written a book about addiction. "And he's going to speak about that and how he has been clean and successful," he said.
Kristen Spencer, EMS program director at Crowder College, will speak on the dangers of synthetic drugs.
Opioid addiction is another large concern of the NCCC, which Clubbs said has become a national epidemic and is leading to another nationwide heroin epidemic.
"Here locally we have heroin but not on the scale we do in other places, and we'd like to keep it that way," he said.
"But a lot of heroin abusers started using prescription drugs," he said.
"We just want to get that out there, that's what the coalition has been campaigning for the last few months now with our public service announcements that we've had on television, the new billboards that are going up around the community, and the deter bags that help you dispose of prescription drugs that we've been passing out at different events around the community," Clubbs said.
"So this Prevention Conference just helps solidify our stance that prescription drug abuse is out there and we need to closely monitor our children's activities and our prescription drugs so they don't fall into our children's hands."
Admission to the 12-5 p.m. Prevention Conference in the Wright Conference Center is free, though Clubbs recommends registering your intentions to attend by calling 451-2540 or email talmadge clubbs@crowder.edu.