Forum to cover underage drinking, drugs

Glendale Officer Joe Allen speaks to the audience about the different types of drugs being used by teens. He made his presentation at the first Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition forum last fall.

By Mary O’Keefe

On April 13 the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Coalition will be holding its second community forum at Verdugo Hills Hospital.

The topics of the forum will include underage drinking and drug parties, teen and pre-teen binge drinking and kid drug use. There will also be a film made by teens and young adults in the area that is an honest and straight forward look at what they are facing in their world.

“The purpose of the forum is to inform and educate parents on these issues,” said Robbyn Battles, member of the coalition and co-chair of the forum.

The coalition began when parents of kids who were in trouble with drugs and battling addiction, as well as others who were simply worried about their children, got together to share stories and get help. Glendale Office Matt Zakarian gathered these parents together, and then brought in community members to help form a proactive organization to face the problems. The coalition has only been in existence for a few months but has reached out to many in the community through meetings and forums like the one on April 13.

Howard Hakes is the president of the coalition. He said he is not surprised that the organization has grown as quickly as it has.

“I am not surprised at the growth because of the people from the community we have on our board. Everyone has really come together and we haven’t had any opposition to what we are trying to do,” Hakes said. “We have support from law enforcement, the school district and organizations like the YMCA.”

Hakes and Battles said the forum’s topics are important to parents even if they think their children will never do drugs or drink.

“A lot of parents are saying, ‘I don’t have to come,’ but if they walk away with one piece of information that helps them it will be worth it,” said Battles.

Susan Dubin is also on the forum committee. She added there seems to be a misconception of who is doing the drugs.

“It is not just a few parents with a problem child. It can be someone getting good grades or someone you would not think would ever be involved,” she added.

The forum is aimed to let parents know what their children already know about the parties that are taking place in Crescenta Valley where kids are drinking and doing drugs.

“Drinking is sometimes perceived as okay by some parents if it is done in a controlled environment. We want to bring this subject up to make those aware of what is going on and that it is not okay,” Hakes said.

He added that it is not that Crescenta Valley has more drugs or more kids who are drinking than other communities.

“But we as a community have begun talking about the issues we do have. We have stepped up and are trying to fight a problem that is nationwide,” Hakes said.

He referred to the two recent deaths in Florida during spring break. Brandon Kohler, 19, from Winder, Georgia and Matt James, 17, of Cincinnati both died after falling from hotel balconies in Panama City, Flor. Although toxicology reports have not been returned witnesses allegedly reported alcohol related behavior of both teens before their falls.

“We want to do what we can to prevent that type of tragedy here,” he said.

The forum panel includes Dr. Greg Lizer, M.D. FAAP, Judge Henry J. Hall, Hank Paz of GUSD, Katherine Kasmir from Straight Up program and Pam Erdman a family and child therapist.

The free forum is at Verdugo Hills Hospital, fourth floor from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 13.