The first countywide teen drug summit that encouraged students to never try drugs, “Not even once,” has been deemed a success by organizers.
Plans for the CRUSH, Community Resources United to Stop Heroin, summit held Friday, May 10, were led by Brianne Barr, assistant prosecuting attorney, and Sherry Huxel, 20th District treatment court administrator.
“The Teen Drug Summit was a success, especially for our first one,” Barr told The Missourian. “We had all positive feedback from those who attended.”
It was held at First Christian Church, Washington. The summit was geared to middle school students to teach them about the dangers of all illegal drugs.
“Not even once” is the motto of CRUSH.
The event is modeled off a St. Charles County event held over the past few years. Barr and Huxel have attended two of those events, including the most recent last November.
The event kicked off with a welcome from Sheriff Steve Pelton, according to Barr.
Then local ambulance districts put on a presentation, including a re-enactment video of a real 911 call from a mother whose child was overdosing, she added.
After the presentation the middle schoolers were split into smaller groups for “break-out sessions” where they heard from the Multi-County Narcotics and Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit, family members who had lost a child and people who are currently in recovery themselves.
“We had 15 vendors there for the day who did a great job interacting with the kids,” Barr noted. “The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) even had gear there for the kids to try on.”
Other vendors with information and swag were Mercy Hospital, Al-Anon and others.
The day ended with the Awaken Project, a “high-energy, multisensory” experience designed to teach younger people about the impact of their choices.
“They give an important message along with a music concert for the kids,” Barr said. “The kids were up and dancing during the concert. It’s an uplifting end to a pretty heavy day.”
About 300 middle school students from districts throughout the county attended the event.
“We were so happy with how it all went. The CRUSH committee did an excellent job putting this together,” Barr said. “We have a great group of people. The First Christian Church in Washington went above and beyond to help us put this program on. We can’t wait for the next one.”
Barr said the next event will likely be held in November.
“We’re hoping even more schools will get involved and send their kids,” she added. “We had some kids asking if they could come back every year. We had teachers asking us to make sure we provided this program on an annual basis.”
The teen drug summit is a deterrent to drug use, and particularly a response to the heroin epidemic plaguing Franklin County and the country — something that members of the CRUSH Committee say they have seen too often.
Middle school students, particularly seventh- and eighth-graders, are targeted for the event because many may be offered drugs in high school.
Drugs like heroin, not only can become physically addictive, but there also could be loss of employment, felony charges and treatment from long-term use.
Each school district in Franklin County was invited to send select students to attend the summit with the idea that they would take what they learned back to their classmates. The school administrators determined who to send.
The committee had been meeting monthly for more than a year and there was tremendous support leading up to the event from all school districts in the county, as well as first responders who participated in the event.