With over ten years working within substance abuse education, the numbers still shock Beatrice Owen. As Director of the Porter County Substance Abuse Council, she is constantly faced with the serious problem of substance abuse within Northwest Indiana. And while some may turn their heads or hope it gets better, Owen and the Porter County Substance Abuse Council, chaired by Paula Dranger, remain committed to making a difference.
“There is such a need in this area for education and prevention,” explains Owen, whose office’s focus is to reduce the incidence of substance abuse in Porter County. “We have a prevention and education component through our Education sub-committee lead by Gloria Guererro, and personally, I have always been proud of being part of the effort to eliminate substance abuse in our area. It’s a worthwhile mission for everyone to become a part of.”
From alcohol to tobacco to drugs, the Porter County SAC and its Treatment sub-committee, headed by Jennifer Harkel, provide countless evidence-based substance abuse programs throughout the community to assist all of those dealing with the challenges of addiction. They also focus on always formulating and implementing new county wide plans and advocate legislative concerns both locally and statewide as it relates to the goal and vision of the Council. From prevention and education to intervention and treatment, the needs of the community are increasingly met, thanks to the work of the Porter County SAC and its Vice Chair, Barb Claypool.
“We are always looking for new ways to get our message across,” says Owen, whose council meets on the second Thursday of the month at the Valparaiso Public Library at 7:30 am. “Through our Law Enforcement component, another sub-committee chaired by Larry LaFlower, we created an interactive program with area high school students in which students are invited to drive golf carts while wearing goggles that simulate what it would be like driving on .08 worth of alcohol in your system. Many of the things we do are very visionary and experiential because we know these images and feelings will make a strong impact with our young people.”
Many of the task forces provided by the Porter County SAC has become household names recognized by people of all ages. Chaired by Jackie Sterling, the Porter County Red Ribbon Campaign, for example, features year round activities such as student gatherings, logo design contests and scholarship awards. “Our goal is to touch as many students as we can, at relatively young ages,” explains Owen, whose council offers at home drug kits for parents at the low price of $5. “There are so many components to substance abuse, so reaching a child who might be experiencing it via older family members is of utmost importance.”
The group’s Drunk Driving Task Force, headed by Mike Grennes, is also a strong force within the community, striving to reduce the rate of drunk and drugged drivers on the road. Anti-drunk driving billboards, roving patrols, server training and student programs are some of the ways this group works to make our streets safer. “A car becomes a 5,000 pound death machine after the driver makes the decision to drink alcohol,” concludes Owen, who is always looking for more volunteers to help their collective causes. “We want these drivers off the road, so not one more person gets hurt or killed.”
FOR MORE INFO:
Porter County Substance Abuse Council
155 Indiana Avenue, Suite 102