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Drug Abuse Prevention Effort Goes on

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

(11/1/03) Arrest statistics seem to indicate that the town doesn't have a real problem with drugs.

But Ted Brennan and Jack Deatherage Jr. said they don't think the data reflects what transpires on the streets and behind closed doors, and they're trying to do something about drug use in their community.

Mr. Brennan, Mr. Deatherage and a few other residents are all that remains of the Emmitsburg Coalition to Prevent Drug Abuse. The fledgling organization drew 40 people to its initial meeting in March, but its last meeting had only three people in attendance.

Still, the group marches on. Its next meeting will feature a multimedia demonstration about drug abuse by the Frederick County Sheriff's Office Drug Task Force, a different presentation than the one the sheriff's office gave at a previous coalition gathering. The meeting is set for Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Emmitsburg Ambulance Co. building on South Seton Avenue and is open to the public.

Mr. Brennan, who works on drug-control issues as a staffer at the House of Representatives, admits he's disappointed with the attendance plunge. However, he said he's not discouraged and will continue regardless.

"If it's just me by myself doing it," he said, "I'm willing to do it. I can't change the whole world by myself obviously, but hopefully I can change my little part of it."

Mr. Deatherage said he went to the first meeting out of curiosity but kept coming out of a sense of paying off a debt. The 24-year town resident said that years ago, he smoked marijuana and was a binge drinker.

"At one time, I was part of the problem this town had," he said. "I sort of feel I owe this town something. This is not a good town to raise a kid in if you know what goes on."

Many of the parents in town, Mr. Deatherage said, abused substances in their younger days. Some of them haven't shed those bad habits, so he's not optimistic about them helping fight to keep drugs out of the town.

"If you've got parents who grew up smoking pot and snorting coke and popping pills and tripping on LSD now and then, and they're still doing it, how are they going to stop their kids from doing it?" he asked.

Mr. Deatherage, 49, said the problem is greater and deeper than arrest statistics show.

Deputy Jennifer Bailey said sheriff's office records show only a handful of drug arrests in Emmitsburg between Oct. 1, 2002, and Sept. 30, 2003. She said four people were charged with possession of marijuana, two were arrested for heroin possession, and one was charged for possession of heroin with intent to distribute. No overdoses were attributed to controlled dangerous substances.

Even if a resident thinks that data reflects the scope of the problem, Mr. Brennan said there's still a reason to get involved with the group. Communities, he said, should be proactive to keep drugs off their streets.

The group is targeting kids with the goal of keeping them from starting drug use. Emmitsburg, a town that's 25 miles from any city with more than 10,000 people, has few options to keep children entertained.

Mr. Brennan said kids start using when they're as young as 10 now, and he'd like to see plenty of activities offered to lessen the temptation.

"You hear there's not enough to do in Emmitsburg, he said, "and it's true. We've got to get activities that are cool for kids to do. I'd rather see them picking up a soccer ball or a baseball or a guitar versus picking up a heroin needle or a crack pipe."

Mr. Deatherage, a coach for the Izaak Walton League of America, would like to see kids interested in archery, firearms safety, or even a community garden.

The ideas are nice, but it takes manpower and money to run a program.

Mr. Brennan hoped the coalition would have officers elected and volunteers working by now, but there haven't been enough people to do either. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has pledged a grant of up to $100,000 to help run the program, but currently there's nothing to run.

Mr. Deatherage said he's not optimistic that town residents will support the coalition. He viewed the few people at the last meeting as the only ones committed to an anti-drug effort.

That, however, isn't Mr. Brennan's stance. He's convinced the organization can prosper. He said Mayor Jim Hoover recently said many programs in Emmitsburg were unsuccessful at first but finally got going.

"It's just a matter of getting the kindling burning, I think," Mr. Brennan said. "I think there's some convincing that still needs to come along."

Read other news stories related to crime & drug abuse in Emmitsburg