Drug Free Clubs head gives presentation

BRIDGEPORT — A drug-prevention organization uses reverse peer pressure to persuade teenagers to steer clear of controlled substances, Bridgeport City Council learned Monday night. Angie Ferguson, executive director of Drug Free Clubs of America, said teens who join the organization agree to undergo random drug testing and receive rewards for being members.

The rewards range from school field trips to special deals at local businesses, Ferguson told city council during a work session that preceded the regular meeting at Bridgeport City Hall. “That makes the other kids jealous, and they want to join,” she added.

Drug testing is the centrepiece of the organization’s drug-prevention efforts, Ferguson said.

Teens who agree to join consent to an initial drug screen and receive a photo identification card upon passing the test, Ferguson said. They also know they could be randomly tested throughout the year, Ferguson said. “If somebody offers you something, you can say, ‘I can’t because I might be drug-tested,’” she said. “And there’s no comeback for that.”

Ferguson said Drug-Free Clubs was started by her father, a retired Cincinnati firefighter.

He and another firefighter were brainstorming how to reverse the devastation that drugs were wreaking on their community, Ferguson said. They settled on drug testing, with those testing negative receiving recognition and positive reinforcement, Ferguson said.

Drug testing is seen as something punitive and heavy-handed, but it doesn’t have to be leveraged like that,” she said. “Drug testing works all the time. That’s why we do it in business.”

Forming a local Drug Free Club requires a buy-in by the schools, students, parents and the community, said Ferguson, who also gave a presentation during the council meeting.

Drug test results are shared only with the parent, with membership at stake should a test return positive, Ferguson said.

The cost to join is $67 per student per year, Ferguson said.

Councilwoman Melissa Matheny expressed concerns about students whose parents might not have the means to pay the membership fee. The organization never launches a chapter without a plan for those who can’t afford the fee, Ferguson replied.

Source: theet.com 13th May 2015

This is a good example of positive prevention. When local businesses agree to be involved, more teens agree to sign up. Offers of free cinema tickets, entry to skating rinks, meals at McDonald’s and similar encourage drug free youngsters to remain clean.

Whilst students already using heavily might not want to join, the school would then be able to keep a watchful eye on those refusing membership and identify users early on; this would enable helping strategies to be used for such pupils. Fewer users in an area results in safer communities, better academic results in schools and would be a win-win situation all round. NDPA

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