ATASCADERO — With the goal of not having another funeral for a teenager whose life was lost due to addiction, the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation has started Lighthouse.
The program will include awareness, prevention, intervention and support.
While the program will include education to the community, the main part of the program will take place within the Atascadero Unified School District. Lighthouse Administration D.J. Pittenger said the program will be integrated as part of the student’s school day.
Atascadero Police Commander Joe Allen said he got involved after a boy he used to coach died due to a heroin addiction. Lighthouse Chairman Donn Clickard listed several teens or young adults that have died in the last year because of addiction.
“A young man died recently. I coached him,” Allen said. “This young man was too young to die. It got to me.”
While he said he’s been working with the department to step up on enforcement of drug related incidents, but that that’s not the only answer. He said that for some, getting arrested is the answer, but for others they need support and education.
“There’s a drug problem in our community,” Allen said. “There’s drug problems in everybody’s communities, … we’re just choosing to do something about it as a group. Our problem is no more severe or less severe than other communities, we’re just going to do something about it.”
Allen said that officers have arrested 25 people in the last month on drug charges during sweeps.
They said that the student they want to help is the student that admits he or she has a problem and wants help. Pittenger said she has had students tell her they had to miss school because they had a drug problem and were detoxing at home, alone. Instead, Pittenger wants her students at school, both to continue their education, but also to have the support they need.
“Some place for them to feel safe,” Allen said.
Clickard added that education and awareness will also be provided to those not addicted to drugs or alcohol as a preventative measure.
With the desire to help those addicted and to prevent others from becoming addicted, Lighthouse was formed at the end of 2011, but it wasn’t until two months ago that the program was named.
“We’re able to do this because a lot of people recognized we could do something about it,” Clickard said. “We know we’ll make it better. What we want is not one more funeral.”
“We give back to the community,” Allen added. “Now we found a way to give back to the community again. Somebody has to be an agent of change.”
Lighthouse will host a town hall meeting on Wednesday, June 27 at 6 p.m. in the Atascadero High School gym to address concerns the community may have on drug and alcohol addiction.
Clickard said the meeting will start with a 10-minute video and then be followed with information from Allen and Clickard. The meeting will end with those in attendance being able to get more information about different components needed to run the program.
Some areas where people can help are as a mentor, provide a sponsorship for a healthy activity, hire or help train someone in recovery or provide a monetary donation.
There will also be people on hand if any addicted person attends the town hall meeting and wants help.
“Anybody who wants the education will get it,” Allen said.
Part of the awareness piece, Pittenger said, is to help people recognize someone who is addicted.
“A lot of people say ‘that’s not my kid,’” Pittenger said.
The town hall meeting on June 27 is to get people thinking about the program. Another meeting will be held in August. The program will begin in the fall.
“We have kids whose dreams have been shattered or lives lost because of their addiction,” Pittenger said. “Our goal is to provide support [for those who want help] in the community [and not send them away].”
For more information or to help in some way, call Clickard at 712-6356, Pittenger at 391-3042 or Allen at 470-3236.
For the complete article see the 06-22-2012 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 06-22-2012 paper.