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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Local students kick off Red Ribbon Week

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter talks to students and teachers about the dangers of prescription drug abuse at the P.I.E Coalition breakfast Monday. The breakfast kicked off a week of events for Red Ribbon Week, a drug prevention awareness event.
Putnam County anti-drug coordinators kicked off a week of substance abuse awareness Monday with a conversation with local high school students about the drug problems they see in their hallways.

Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter led a discussion with about two dozen students from Cloverdale, South Putnam and North Putnam high schools at a breakfast at Jackson’s Family Restaurant sponsored by the Prevention, Intervention and Education Coalition, a countywide group that is trying to reduce drug use throughout the community. The discourse was part of the activities for Red Ribbon Week, which is a national program organized to raise drug abuse awareness. The wife of a slain Drug Enforcement Administration Agent started Red Ribbon Week in the mid 80s to honor her husband’s memory.

During Red Ribbon Week, P.I.E. Coalition organizers will travel to every school in Putnam County to pass out red rubber bracelets with anti-drug messages, said P.I.E. Organizer Renee Marsteller. Bookwalter used his pretrial diversion fund to buy 7,000 of the bracelets -- enough to give one to each student and faculty member in Putnam County schools.

The organization is also sponsoring an anti-drug essay contest for fourth and fifth graders throughout the county, Marsteller said.

P.I.E. members have tied red ribbons to light posts throughout Greencastle, as well.

P.I.E.’s breakfast with high schoolers is a monthly event that is meant to provide a forum for anti-drug community leaders to interact with students.

At Monday’s meeting, Bookwalter walked around the dining room, asking each table of students what they think the biggest problem drugs at their schools are.

The students responded with the usual culprits -- alcohol and marijuana. Bookwalter said alcohol is, indeed, prevalent and dangerous and high school students.

“I feel like every year that I’m sitting on a powder keg,” he said. “Who is going to get killed in a crash with alcohol this year?”

But, the new threat, he said, is prescription drugs. The prosecutor’s office has been dealing with many new cases of students taking drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets and either selling them or taking them themselves, he added.

And even though prescription drugs are legal for the people to whom they are prescribed, having them without a prescription is just as illegal as cocaine or methamphetamine, he said.

Megan Robinson, a freshman at North Putnam High School, said the P.I.E. breakfasts help students to build a stronger support system to resists drugs and alcohol.

However, Sonya Cleveland, a representative from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, said the real benefit of programs like the P.I.E. breakfast is that they allow community leaders to get anti-drug messages out to students who can return to their schools and make a difference.

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