Drug Free Club takes proactive approach

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Drug Task Force held a meeting with the Drug Free Club of America and several persons from the surrounding communities.

The Drug Free Club of America is a program in which participating students would be randomly drug tested during the school year. To be in the Drug Free Club, the drug test must come back negative. Those who are in the club can receive perks from local participating businesses.

The meeting is one of the many next steps being taken by Drug Task Force Commander and Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland, who is trying to implement this program in the seven high schools in Belmont County, along with St. John Central High School and the vocational school as well.

McFarland is in the process of attending school board meetings in each of the school districts. So far, he has attended Martins Ferry, Bridgeport and Bellaire meetings. Many of the school boards liked the idea of the Drug Free Club, and they can opt out of it at any time.

“Our goal is for the 2014- 2015 school year to have this program running in all school districts that want to participate,” said McFarland. “Once we have an idea of how many schools want to be involved, I will then move forward in looking for funding. We do have some commitments already without even trying that have committed to providing some funding towards the program.”

The funding McFarland is looking for will help pay for the drug tests so that the parents or schools won’t have to. Other funding and donations would go toward rewards for the students.

According to Drug Free Club representative Angie Ferguson, the rewards and students seeing their friends receiving these rewards is a buy-in for students to join the club and not do drugs.

The purpose of this is to reward students for making good decisions, and it also works as a preventive measure so that students will not get in trouble in the long run. Juvenile Court Judge Mark Costine has agreed to help with funding.

“Those of us with the juvenile court and the prosecutor’s office, we see the opposite side of this, the bad results and the end results of this lifestyle,” said Costine. “I have always thought that a proactive approach to this type of situation is much better than a reactionary approach.”

McFarland believes that no matter how many people they arrest, with the demands there will be someone else there to sell those drugs.

“This takes the approach to eliminate the demand for the drugs. If the demand isn’t there, then they won’t come around,” said McFarland. “Let’s take a different approach starting with the youth and working our way forward. It’s not a project that is going to make a difference in six months to a year. I foresee it carrying on forever, but we have to have proactive and aggressive people involved with this program in each school working together and making a difference.”

Van Dyne can be reached at kvandyne@timesleaderonline.com.