ALTON — Drug Free Alton has had a busy year.
With events ranging from their first Youth Speak Out to sponsoring the Night Out event, coalition members have been out in the community spreading their message about reducing substance abuse among youths.
Drug Free Alton has been articulating its message to the Alton School District for several years. This past year has been one of the more eventful years, and they are planning to continue the trend until funding runs out. Drug Free Alton will host its second annual Youth Speak Out from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 14. The community is encouraged to attend and see what youths have to say about substance abuse and the impact drugs have on their community. The event gives students a safe place to host a forum and to speak up about their concerns.
Drug Free Alton, in collaboration with other organizations, hosted 5th Quarter events this past fall after high school football and basketball games. These are events where high school-age youth safely can blow off their excitement after the games, instead of attending other events that could include illegal activities. The youth showed up to these events in modest numbers, but Drug Free Alton is looking to keep the events going to provide a safe place for youths.
“We also ran a campaign in the schools,” said Greg Gelzinnis, maintenance chairperson of Drug Free Alton. “It was called Those Who Host Lose the Most.”
This was a school-based campaign to help educate students and parents about the dangers of letting youths drink at home.
“While there are some misconceptions about letting your children drink in the ‘safety’ of your home, it is actually dangerous,” Gelzinnis said.
Drug Free Alton has been working with police to increase sobriety checkpoints during increased times of underage drinking. These checkpoints have led to a decrease in underage drunken driving.
“We are making progress,” Gelzinnis said.
Despite that progress, the organization finds itself in a precarious position. Funding is starting to dry up and they are searching for ways to sustain their efforts without federal funding. They are feeling a sense of urgency to get their message out about substance abuse before major budget issues emerge.
The coalition meets every third Thursday of the month. The meetings start at 12:30 p.m.; networking begins at noon. The public is encouraged to see what the coalition has planned and become part of a drug-free Alton. They can be reached by calling (618) 463-3505, emailing info.drugfreealton.com or going to the website, www.drugfreealton.com.