Parents, teachers, business men and women and community leaders met Tuesday night to launch a coalition in Grove to help prevent drug and alcohol abuse in the city.
The meeting was part of the Jay-CAN Drug Coalition, which is the one of the hubs of the program in northeast Oklahoma.
The effort is funded by a federal grant given to the Cherokee Nation to be used in a 14 county area.
The Grove coalition unofficially dubbed GROVE-CAN, is seeking to partner with members of the community to gather data about substance abuse and seek solutions.
Associate District Judge Denney, Grove Police Chief Mark Morris and Grove Mid School Assistant Principal Theresa Morley were some of the speakers at the grassroots meeting.
Each speaker emphasized the need for parent involvement as well as programs that are preventative rather than treatment.
“There are a lot of agencies that work with families after the fact,” said Judge Denney. “A lot of people may think that we don’t have to get involved because we don’t have much of a problem around here – I’m here to tell you we have that’s not true.”
According to Denney, the dropout rate in this area is 25% and a lot of that is drug and alcohol related.
He said that a rampant problem in Grove is the illegal use and sales of prescription drugs.
The coalition will be looking at ways to curtail that problem, he said.
Asst. Principal Morley confirmed that reaching the students early is key, but parents have to be involved at this complicated time in the lives of mid-schoolers.
“If everything was perfect in their livez, children would still have a hard time getting through mid school,” Morley said.
She said that kids that age turn to cigarettes and alcohol because they want to act like adults.
Helping parents with resources and education is needed, as well as elective classes in school that focus on making right choices, she said.
However, budget restraints have prevented some of these programs to be instituted.
Grove Police Chief Mark Morris said he is excited about the formation of a local coalition.
He said a lot of people think the Grove police just want to cuff ‘em and throw them in jail but that is not a correct assessment of the mindset of his department.
“I’ve seen these officers beg and plead with these kids to go down a different path,” Morris said.
Morris gave statistics on drug and alcohol arrests and agreed that prescription drugs are a problem.
“I’ve stayed awake at night trying to figure out how to solve this problem,” Morris said. “But I think we are very lucky to live in the community where people want to make a difference and I think we can in a very short time.”
“Great things are in store for Grove, Oklahoma,” said David Knox, pastor of Grove Christian Center and president of Grove Ministerial Alliance.
Cherokee National Behavioral Health representative Mary Horsechief-Henderson talked to the group about the history of the grant program and what would be involved and encouraged members of the community to become active supporters of GroveCAN.
“If you ever thought there was something that might work, now’s your chance,” she said.
The first meeting organizational meeting will be held Tuesday, November 10 at the Grove Civic Center.