CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Encouraging news out of Charlotte County. The number of teenagers who drink and do drugs is at an all time low. In fact, Drug Free Charlotte leaders say, other substance abuse coalitions around the state are taking notice!
In an age where synthetic drugs are on convenience store shelves, and legalizing marijuana for medical uses is a hot topic, Charlotte County leaders agree, they're still making progress with local youth.
"We are making headway at a time which is probably the most difficult to do so," says Cheif Butch Arenal with the Punta Gorda Police Department.
That headway is across the board for alcohol, drugs, and tobacco use. In fact, teen alcohol use is at the lowest number, only 31 percent, that Drug Free Charlotte County has seen since the coaltion started 13 years ago.
"It's probably one of the biggest points of impact that we've had with Drug Free coalition is to help high school and middle school kids understand that not everyone's out on friday nights partying," says Superintendent Doug Whittaker.
The coaltion has launched many campaigns in the community to remind students and parents of the dangers of substance abuse. And they say the numbers show, it's paying off.
Programs like D.A.R.E. are taught in middle and high school. last year, the coaltion started 'Verify Truth' here providing 10-thousand free tests to parents so they could drug test their kids.
"We've had youth say, that's their buffer, that's their excuse not to. They can say, 'you know what I don't know if my parents are going to test me.' It gives them an easy out. it also gives them a socially acceptable out too," says Director or Drug Free Charlotte County, Diane Ramseyer.
Folks with Drug Free Charlotte County say they are gearing up to do some training with other coalitions across the state to share some of their successful programs.