Struthers grant will offer student drug screenings

By Emmalee c. TORISK


City residents concerned their children may be using drugs soon will have access to free instant drug screenings, thanks to a $600 grant from Camp Frederick, a retreat center in Rogers.

The grant money will be used to purchase 100 tests. Each test can screen for 11 drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, said Yvonne Wilson, juvenile-diversion officer for Struthers City Schools. Testing will be confidential, and neither the school district nor the police department will take disciplinary action based on a student’s test results.

A recent survey conducted by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County showed that students in the Struthers School District demonstrated a more significant increase in marijuana use and prescription-drug misuse than several other districts throughout the county, Wilson said.

“I’ve received calls where parents are concerned their children may be experimenting, and they don’t know where to go,” she said. “Instead of waiting until [drug use is] out of control, parents who are seeing some signs that their child might be using can get tested and find out for sure — then get them the help they need.”

The drug screenings are a tool to help students and their families, Wilson said. Previously, free testing was offered only to students in the Struthers Juvenile Diversion Program, which works with the district’s at-risk students to help them make good choices and avoid ending up in the criminal-justice system.

Angela McClellan, director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County, said coupling the drug screenings with an existing diversion program not only gives parents results, but also provides access to other resources to help determine “what comes next.” “Anybody can go into the corner drugstore and buy an instant test and test their student,” she said. “But if it comes back and they found something, what do you do? Now, you have professionals who have those answers at their fingertips.”

Wilson applied for the Camp Frederick grant in March and found out last week that the city’s diversion program had been selected to receive it.

Justin Landry, camp director, said Camp Frederick, which is owned and operated by a corporation of Lutheran churches, has put aside 10 percent of the profits from an oil and gas lease to distribute as community grants.

Camp Frederick’s maximum grant amount is $1,000, and the committee has received 15 requests, all of which have been approved for funding. Projects funded by the grant must work to improve the quality of life for youths or adults, Landry said.

“[Camp Frederick] can’t offer something like that,” he said of the drug program in Struthers. “We want to be able to support them.”

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