April 08, 2020

Kiwanis concerned about drug problem

I am scared. I am a member of Kiwanis, that glorious group of people who try to do great things for the community, especially, the young. We have our weekly meetings; invariably with guest speakers who usually discuss concerns for the young, but we in Bangor Breakfast Kiwanis, now, have had at least two talks by those directly involved with the problem of our kids … and drugs.

I am scared. What we have been told is that our kids are immersed in and susceptible to a drug epidemic; that drugs are everywhere in the schools, even in the grammar school. Indeed, schools are considered primary targets for drug pushers. We in Kiwanis typically listen to talks about kid’s needs, and kid’s accomplishments, but we also have been made privy to monstrous tales of woe, which have been experienced by beautiful children and their families, because of the drug culture that has been forced on us.

I am scared. The threat to our kids and their future, to our families, to everything that we hold dear, is as great as anything that we could envision, yet no one seems to notice or care. My friends don’t discuss it, the media is silent, there is no alarm being sounded. There has been almost nothing in the local television or the Bangor Daily. The candidates have not mentioned it. Why is this dreadful pestilence not being noticed?

How bad is it? Heroin and misused prescription drug use by our kids is increasing by something like 230 percent a year! Almost every single student in the entire state knows how to get drugs or can find out by simply asking. The 25 agents in the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (Yes, 25 in the entire state) make about 850 drug arrests in a year. Imagine if we had more! There used to be 66 agents and they were cut back to 25. Why? A thousand agents would not be too many.

The U.S. attorney and Bangor Police published a letter to parents in which they said,

“Law enforcement agencies have confirmed that the number of heroin related incidents has increased alarmingly over the last several months. The quantity, availability and purity of heroin in this area is at an all time high. Of particular concern is the fact that we have now confirmed that heroin is being used on a recreational basis by high school students. Heroin is being used interchangeably with illegally diverted prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Dilaudid which can produce a heroin-like high. Heroin (and other opiates) are tremendously addictive and dangerous. They can cause death or create a lifelong addiction after only a single use.”

Did you get that? You, and I, can lose our glorious, bright, adorable child if he or she experiences a single use of this terrible stuff. The death of a child is horror enough, but a lifetime of addiction? I personally know of a couple of kids who had great futures who are now walking vegetables. Is this unpleasant phraseology? Damned right it is, but tragically, it is descriptive. I am told that it takes $200 a day to support a heroin addiction. Prostitution and crime become imperatives for our loving kids once they are hooked. What are we to do?

Police friends suggest frequent, urgent discussions with the kids to leave no doubt of the dangers, and to constantly assess their mannerisms and appearance. It is even suggested that we periodically check their personal space and belongings for evidence. Unpleasant of course, but the threat is real.

One noteworthy effort to combat drugs was described to our Kiwanis club by Elaine Curtis of Juvenile Services. Addicted kids, especially those in trouble with the law, are being administered to individually in “Drug Court” by Judge Ann Murray, here in Bangor. The good judge insists on thorough performance reporting and gets to “know” each kid such that sentences are personalized. Reversion to drugs might result in compulsory community services or simply doing something good for the family. Abstaining and good behavior is sometimes rewarded by gift certificates.

As unorthodox as this might sound, Elaine, and the mother and daughter who told us of the agony that the daughter’s drug addiction has brought on the family and their hopes for her future, all said great things about Judge Murray and the procedure. Drug agents whom I have talked to said the same. Apparently, it works. Apparently, it works well enough that gift certificates for good performance are solicited from local concerned merchants. If you are willing to contribute such gift certificates, the address is:

Elaine Curtis

Dept of Corrections

Juvenile Services

10 Franklin St.

Bangor (941-3139)

But this is after the damage is done. Parent and teacher seminars should be available, perhaps in each school, so they can learn the warning signs and how to combat this greatest threat to the family future. Demand them! And if unorthodox efforts, such as gift certificates for good efforts to overcome drug addiction actually work, perhaps we could use such a program to encourage students to surreptitiously report drug pushers! Perhaps to advertised 800 numbers and postal boxes. To minimize the threat before the damage is done! If the rewards were sufficient incentive, and the student could be assured of anonymity, perhaps the reluctance to tattle could be overcome. Who knows? Has it been tried? Why not? I can imagine no more effective effort.

Almost every local business has demonstrated a willingness to contribute gift certificates for good causes, but no greater cause can be imagined. If this would work, it could serve as a vehicle for the concerned community to help protect our kids.

What if Kiwanis joined with Rotary in this effort? Kiwanis could provide the staffing for a “local agency” that would commit itself to being effective. Rotary could serve as a catalyst and conduit for providing the funding necessary to reward those that turn in drug dealers.

Other and all interested parents, teachers, and community leaders could take pride in being supportive.

Let’s do it.

Roy C. Martin Jr. is a grandparent who lives in Glenburn.

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