Why We're here
From the Heart
When I began as the director of Partnership for a Drug Free Community, (over 27 years ago) we were familiar with the "drug of the day" – be it marijuana, heroin, cocaine, meth, alcohol, etc. We knew the names, signs and symptoms, and did our very best to teach our youth about the dangers of these hard drugs.
I often reflect on those early years, but had never imagined that we would now be fighting K2, fake bath salts, salvia divinorum, prescription pill abuse, Four Loko and once again, heroin.
How did this happen?
Our youth have become extremely creative, and as "mad scientists" continue to develop chemicals that are legal, but comparable to LSD, meth and ecstasy. And in many states, it is legal, and sold in convenience stores, tobacco shops, etc.
I keep on asking myself why? What are we doing wrong that such deadly chemicals have become so popular?
Is it because our youth are risk takers? Is it because it's legal? Is it because we as parents and grandparents are not aware of these facts? Is it because we don't know how to talk to our kids? Is it because of the uncertainties of a changing world?
Personally, I think it's all of the above.
I spent a great deal of time researching for solutions - how can we fight these insidious drugs that are destroying our youth? And then I had one of those "aha" moments. You can fight back – it seemed so simple – have a law passed that would ban the sale of these so called "designer" drugs – get them off the shelves and prosecute anyone selling them.
Thus began my three-year journey with the Alabama Legislature to criminalize salvia divinorum and K2. I was a novice, and did not know the process of having a bill passed.
But I learned. I learned that the Madison County Legislative Delegation were caring, compassionate leaders, and were willing to read my letters, to respond quickly by email, and committed to sponsor a bill to ban these drugs.
It was a momentous moment for me when the Governor's Office called on April 30, 2010 to announce that the bill was now an official act, 2010-717. Needless to say, I was ecstatic -- even bought a puppy that day. Churchill, a soft coated wheaten terrier. Finally, I could sit back and move on to other projects.
But that did not happen. Just a few months ago, we received frantic phone calls from parents, and school administrators worried about a white powder. This time, synthetic drug chemicals were packaged under the guise of "fake bath salts." Several young adults had overdosed and were taken to the local hospital's emergency room. It was a deadly drug.
Once more I contacted the Madison County Legislative Delegation, the Governor's Office, the Attorney General, Public Health and our statewide anti-drug coalitions. It was one of those miracles because an emergency ban was passed a few weeks ago, and now, these fake bath salts are off the streets.
I am still frustrated. What new synthetic chemical will appear next month – or next year? Must we turn to the legislature and ask them to ban every new chemical that will most likely happen again? What can we do as a community to prevent and decrease youth substance abuse in Huntsville/Madison County, Alabama?
Fortunately, our community leaders recognize that a community must work together to build a safe and healthy future for our youth. We have already proven this theory to be correct. So far, we have held several Take Back events. A total of 6,100 pounds of expired medications were collected by local enforcement and destroyed by the City of Huntsville. We have also developed a community-wide coalition that will focus on preventing and decreasing prescription pill abuse amongst youth and adults.
There is so much more to write about Partnership but fortunately, our website has recently been updated and you can scroll through the pages and learn more about us. Now that you know about us, let's hear from you.
One more thing - over these many years, I am often asked the same question – "why am I so passionate about this cause?" My response – "I am a victim of drug abuse – my son, a young teacher at the University of Georgia was killed in a car accident by a drunk student, who was on his way to buy meth. It was my son's choice to be drug free, but his sisters, nieces, and nephews also became victims."
Three months after his death, I accepted the executive director's position for a fledgling drug prevention agency, Partnership for a Drug-Free Community. Hopefully, drug prevention and education will be the tools for me to honor my son's memory.
Deborah Soule, executive director
Updated August 2015