By Jason KUROSU
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, a maxim that local members of the community have taken to heart. “The Village” held its first meeting Monday night at St. Luke’s of the Mountains, attracting an audience of parents for what the Village’s organizers hope will be a regular event held every first Monday of the month.
Hannah Sheklow, whose daughter Elannah died of a heroin overdose in 2012, is one of the Village’s chief organizers. Sheklow had previously spoken at a February Crescenta Valley Youth Town Council meeting about her daughter and on Monday night addressed parents about the signs of teen drug use, signs that might not always be obvious.
“There is no one right answer, so you have to be alert all the time,” said Sheklow, who mentioned her daughter had begun wearing long sleeves to hide her drug use. Sheklow noticed other changes, such as different friends, but noted the difficulties in assessing a teen’s behavior, whether potential drug use or typical changes brought on by adolescence.
But no tricks or secret techniques to sniffing out drug abuse were imparted that night. Rather, communication was touted as the key to learning more, and not limited to communication between parents and children, but also involving other parents, children and members of the community.
“We parents are the hardest people to educate,” said Sheklow. “As someone who didn’t look for resources and didn’t know what was available in our community, I can look around now and think, ‘Look at all these amazing people and resources that I didn’t know about.’”
Law enforcement officials were also on hand to answer questions about the volume of teen drug use that they come across and what penalties kids may face for drug possession or use. Among the officials were Glendale Police Officer and CV Alliance President Matt Zakarian, Glendale Police Officer Jonathan Rodriguez, Glendale Community Service Officer Abe Chung and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Matejka.
“Compared to my life experience, growing up in L.A., I’ve never seen the drug use that I see now,” said Chung, who has worked in La Crescenta for the past five years.
Despite what he viewed as a growing trend, Chung did not think more policing was the answer.
“I’d like to push education. The police are a band-aid, a temporary solution to a problem, which doesn’t really help with problems like drug use.”
Monday night provided parents with an opportunity to speak directly with those familiar with the local drug environment and the resources for those seeking help.
Matejka provided a display case full of drug paraphernalia and other items he confiscated from students during a full school year at La Cañada High School. Angelique Shirvanian, program director of Action Family Counseling, offered the drug rehabilitation program’s many services, including free drug tests and helping people with drug counseling expenses. Suzy Jacobs, as well as Matt Zakarian, were on hand from CV Alliance (formerly known as the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition).
That parents were asking questions and speaking with the officials present was a positive sign for Sheklow, who hoped that the Village could promote “education and a stronger sense of community.”
“If you want your community educated,” Sheklow told the parents, “then please spread the word.”