At around age 17, Michael Perryman was in serious trouble. Drugs and alcohol were in control of his life and maintained a dangerous stronghold for about 10 years. “Those were some of the darkest days of my life,” explained his mother, Mimi Scofield. “There were many sleepless nights and many hours of praying for his recovery,” she said. “I knew that I was in the fight of my life. I was not about to give up and I was not about to let my son give up.”
Today, with the support of his mother and many others, Perryman is celebrating eight years of sobriety and counting. “I want you to know that I’m here today because prevention works,” Perryman recently told an audience of Drug Free Collier supporters.
As a result of her son’s personal struggle and grateful triumph over addiction, Scofield serves on Drug Free Collier’s Board of Directors. She is a strong advocate for prevention and is committed to helping others through her involvement with the local organization. “I’m here to tell you that there is hope and victory over addiction,” she said.
Drug Free Collier Cares
Drug Free Collier is a coalition of concerned citizens working together to save and change lives by making our community a safer, healthier and drug-free place for our youth. “Children need to know that we care,” said Dr. Frank Nappo, President of Drug Free Collier’s Board of Directors.
The coalition is a partnership of local parents, teachers, law enforcement, businesses, religious leaders, health care providers and other community activists who all care about protecting our youth, explained Dr. Nappo.
As an organization that is growing and developing in this community, Drug Free Collier has a singular purpose, said the Rev. Kirt Anderson, Pastor at Naples Community Church and Drug Free Collier Board Member. “To affirm life, to affirm freedom, and to ensure that our young people make it through all of those silly false choices – most of which are rooted and grounded in their desire to belong,” he said. “If they only knew how loved they are.”
Honorable Lauren L. Brodie, Collier County Circuit Court Judge and founding member of Drug Free Collier explains how the organization was born out of genuine concern. “When we began discussing the idea of a community coalition in late 2004 and then actually forming Drug Free Collier in 2005,” Judge Brodie said: “Very few people wanted to admit that kids in Collier County used drugs. That’s why we had to have a speaker’s bureau. That’s why we had to talk to any group that would listen. We had to convince people that kids were using drugs,” she said
“Today, I venture to say that everyone knows someone whose life has been affected by a child using drugs or alcohol,” said Judge Brodie. “On one hand, I am thankful that we can now openly engage in this dialogue. But what saddens me more is why we can do this.”
To help measure progress, Drug Free Collier has been tracking data from the annual Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey (FYSAS) since 2002. FYSAS is a collaborative effort between the Florida departments of Health, Education, Children and Families, Juvenile Justice and the Governor’s Office of Drug Control. It includes the responses of more than 1,200 students in local middle and high schools.
The latest FYSAS report offers a compelling snapshot of drug use among adolescents in Collier County.
The good news: drug use among local teens has been declining overall since 2004.
The bad news: Collier County youth are often abusing substances at rates higher than their peers throughout the state.
“Drug Free Collier believes these trends should concern everyone in Collier County,” said Executive Director, Melanie Black. “Our coalition is here to review this data and develop concrete solutions,” she said. By coordinating efforts between multiple sectors of our community, we are determined to achieve positive outcomes for our youth and improve the results of this annual student assessment, said Black. “Who else would be looking into this?” she added.
A Closer look at the FYSAS
The FYSAS offers more than simple numbers about drug use prevalence in Collier County. It also examines local conditions that may influence whether or not our teens engage in risky behavior. Research shows that student achievement, delinquency, and drug use are all associated with specific risk and protective factors. These factors are considered to be more important than ethnicity, income or family structure when it comes to understanding adolescent behavior.
The highest risk factor identified for Collier County students was “transitions and mobility.” This means that students in our area are more likely to have changed homes or schools on one or more occasions. Even normal school transitions are associated with an increase in problem behaviors. According to research, transitions may contribute to increased rates of drug use, school dropouts and antisocial behavior. This is thought to occur because students no longer have the bonds they had in their old environment and do not develop new bonds to protect them from involvement in problem behaviors.
Other key findings include lower rates for protective factors in certain community domains. For example, when asked: “Are there people in my neighborhood who are proud of me when I do something well?” students in Collier County answered below the national and state normative samples. Research shows that when communities recognize pro-social behavior, students feel valued and are less likely to engage in negative behavior.
“When concerned adults such as teachers, friends, relatives, pastors, older siblings, and neighbors take an interest in youth, we build a community support system with strong protective factors, said Dr. Nappo.
As long as there are youth at risk of substance abuse, our children, grandchildren and our community are at risk.
You Can Help
You can be part of the solution by making a financial gift, volunteering or becoming a coalition member. Some initiatives include:
• Operation Medicine Cabinet® – a pharmaceutical take-back program for the safe disposal of unused prescriptions in the household. It’s a prescription for safe kids & a clean environment! • Responsible Alcohol Vendor Training – Free training offered to vendors to identify best practices for preventing the sale of alcohol to minors. I.D. Scanners are also available for use at community festivals where alcohol is sold. The scanners are a free resource from Drug Free Collier to reduce human error when checking IDs.
• Community Awareness Meetings – Each year, Drug Free Collier reaches thousands of local residents with informative presentations from national and local experts. Drug trends change and our knowledge about drugs should change too. We offer the most up-todate information about substance abuse to our community.
• C.O.R.E. Society – The C.O.R.E. Society is a social club with a purpose. The movement began in 2009 with a handful of students at Naples High School who pledged to remain drug and alcohol free. Today, we have 10 CORE Clubs throughout Collier County, with more than 400 students making positive choices and encouraging their peers to do the same. The C.O.R.E. acronym stands for: Character; Opposing Drugs; Responsible Choices & Expectations. These students are “Clean to the CORE and Under Control.”