The DARE anti-drug program is an effective deterrent that helps keep youngsters from using drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and which works in part because “education is key to helping children,” according to Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera.
Barrera and Sgt. Bobby Stroop, the county’s DARE officer, told Hillsboro Rotarians on Tuesday that despite some who downplay the program’s effectiveness, “it works.”
Stroop said that a component of DARE focuses on “role models,” exemplary students who make a commitment to staying drug-free, and no students who have been role models in the program have turned to drugs, he said.
He said it’s gratifying when former students who have been in his DARE classes return from college and say to him, “Sarg, what do you need?”
Stroop, who has been the DARE officer since 2006, told Rotarians about a DARE graduate whose father had died from an overdose, but who couldn’t talk about it until she became involved in the DARE program.
As more evidence of the program’s success, three students from Hillsboro Middle School accompanied Barrera and Stroop to the Rotary meeting. Jack Roades, Lauren Cimis and Madison Younker each took turns describing the program and how it sends a positive message to 6,000 Highland County kids every year in each of the county’s five school districts.
Stroop said educational programs are available for presentation to adults, focusing on identifying different drugs.
Along with the DARE program targeted to elementary students, a related “Keeping it REAL” program is being utilized in middle schools, aimed at students ages 12-14. “Keeping it REAL” is a program using “a 10-lesson curriculum taught by trained classroom teachers in 45-minute sessions over 10 weeks, with booster sessions delivered in the following school year,” according to a program description.
Stroop also described a new cruiser recently obtained by the sheriff’s office, after the former DARE vehicle, a Ford Explorer with more than 100,000 miles, finally gave out.
With the help of donations, including $5,000 worth of emergency lights from an Amelia Police Department officer, the sheriff’s office was able to purchase a 2011 Crowne Victoria which was a former Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser. The new DARE vehicle features a camouflage wrap that is attention-getting and was being admired in the parking lot of the Ponderosa Banquet Center following Tuesday’s meeting.
Barrera called the drug problem a crisis in Highland County and nationwide, but pledged, “We’re going to prevail.” He said there are overdoses every day in Highland County.
Barrera touted a new program which has deputies equipped with Narcan, an opium antidote that often revives overdose victims. A growing number of organizations across the country, such as schools, have been gaining approval to keep Narcan on hand.
The sheriff said some officers have been reluctant to carry and administer Narcan, but he said that when an officer is one minute away from an overdose victim, and a life squad is five minutes away, more lives can be saved if deputies are prepared to administer the drug.
“If you can save one kid, it’s worth it,” said Barrera. “They’re human just like we are.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.