Rather than watch Franklin County’s drug problem grow, St. Clair resident Frankie Miller said she wants to take a proactive approach to stopping the epidemic.
So far, the group “Let’s Talk Prevention” is only something Miller has been thinking about for several years. She decided to start a local group to discuss and implement ideas on how to keep kids off drugs, as well as address other issues.
“I don’t know of anyone in the county who wants to get together and talk about prevention,” Miller said. “There are so many good ideas out there.”
Miller’s main inspiration came from a community-service issue of TIME Magazine in about 2007. The magazine had featured the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), a program started by Geoffrey Canada that brought a range of support services to one city block.
Services were offered to help combat crumbling apartments, failing schools, violent crimes and chronic health problems.
The program expanded to 24 blocks and eventually to nearly 100 blocks, serving more than 10,000 children and 7,000 adults.
“This is what first inspired me. This is what every community needs,” Miller said, adding that her group would not only focus on drugs, but would figure out the community’s needs and work from there.
Miller said that children need someone to guide and help them, especially if they have faced some sort of rejection from a team or activity.
“He (or she) may brush it off, but it’s there in his psyche — rejection. We need to give him an outlet for his interests,” she said. “If the kids don’t have any other way to go, they’ll use drug use as their foundation. I’ve seen it in my own neighborhood.”
Being rejected from a team or just trying to fit in may make kids turn to drugs, she said.
Like with the Harlem Children’s Project, she would like to establish programs to help keep kids busy, even low-income families who can’t always afford for their children to play the sports and participate in after-school activities.
A program similar to HCZ Miller is interested in replicating is American Graduates, a St. Louis program that aims at keeping kids in school.
Poverty, dropout rates and drugs are all problems linked together, Miller said.
“The community is impacted by all the things that happen with drug use,” she said.
As much as possible, Miller has been attending anti-heroin rallies in Franklin County to help spread the word of “Let’s Talk Prevention.”
“I’m hoping people will come forward,” she said. “I want to see if anyone likes the ideas I have or if they have ideas of their own. One person can’t do it all.”
Miller said it’s up to the community as to how big the group will be, whether it will focus solely on St. Clair or all of Franklin County and the types of services it will offer.
“It’s wonderful to rally,” she said. “But I want to go another step and be more proactive about it.”
Those interested in forming a prevention group can contact Miller at 314-520-6188. Miller also has started a Facebook page, that can be found by searching “Let’s Talk Prevention.”