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New program attempts to curb teen substance abuse

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When it comes to teenagers, sometimes their families are the last to know what’s going on in their lives—especially if that teen hides what’s going on.

“Our family has been fighting drug abuse and addiction for over eight years,” said Kathy B. O’Keefe, executive director of Flower Mound advocacy group Winning The Fight! (WTF). “Our 18-year-old son, Brett, suffered from the disease of addiction. On March 20, 2010, he lost his battle and died from a ‘mixed drug intoxication’.”

Current statistics say that a person dies from a drug overdose every 14 minutes in the United States, and prescription drugs cause a death every 19 minutes. 

On May 22, the Flower Mound Police Department (FMPD) launched an innovative program called “I.N. the Know,” a new tool to help save lives and combat drug abuse among teens within the community. The “I.N.” of the title stands for “Identify” and “Notify,” two key components of the initiative.

“The fact that Flower Mound is waking up to teen substance abuse is encouraging,” said longtime resident Mark Glover. “I still see young parents saying it could never happen to one of their kids. One of my son’s best friends went down the drug path and eventually died of an overdose. He was a good kid from a good family.”

Although classmates, school officials, or community members may suspect a teenager to be using drugs, various reasons– such as lack of evidence, not wanting to get the teen in trouble or become personally involved– result in nothing being done.

“Kids can get off track, regardless of how well they’re raised,” said Glover. “They have depression issues, self esteem issues, or things going on that parents don’t understand or know about. In the last sixteen months, 59 kids in Flower Mound under the age of 21 had drug or alcohol incidents where paramedics treated them.”

With I.N. the Know, officers will focus on identifying at-risk teens who are using or experimenting with dangerous drugs, specifically heroin.

Once identified, the Police Department will reach out and notify family members that their son or daughter may be using heroin and provide the necessary resources and support to help that young person get back on the path to success.

“Having an addict in your home is like going through a constant war zone,” said O’Keefe. “You never know what the enemy is planning or the next mode of attack.  You do learn skills to fight the battle, praying that you can win the war.” 

I.N. the Know is not intended to be an enforcement effort; rather, a life-saving mission for Flower Mound youth. All tips and information regarding teen narcotic use will remain confidential and no criminal charges will be filed.

“The Police Department will continue to target those individuals who are selling drugs to our kids,” said FMPD Sgt. Colin Sullivan. “But– when it comes to the end-user– the family is the answer; not the Police Department, not the school, but the family.”

“This is not just a problem for that family down the street with teenagers running amuck,” said O’Keefe. “This is our community; that we love and care enough about to work together and make a difference.”

For information about the I.N. the Know program, or to alert officials about a teen using narcotics, contact FMPD Sgt. Colin Sullivan at 972-874-3341, or the FMPD non-emergency line at 972-539-0525.

 

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