THE BELMONT County Drug Task Force is working to create a program inside of the nine Belmont County High Schools to promote staying drug free. This program is called the Drug Free Club.
This club has been successful in several Ohio County schools. The Drug Free Club of America was founded by three firefighters in the Cincinnati area with the idea teen drug use never begins, it never has to be defeated.
"This is different then other programs, the main focus is on rewarding kids that chose not to do drugs," said Drug Task Force Commander John McFarland who is spear-heading this project. "In this area, something has to happen to have the younger generation realize the affects of drugs and the consequences of being on drugs. It may start off as something small but eventually it may lead to something bigger."
Working with McFarland on this project is Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas, Juvenile Judge Mark Constine, soon to be Northern Court Judge Chris Berhalter and Martins Ferry solicitor Dan Fry. He as also meet with the superintendents in Belmont County to gage their interest.
McFarland hopes that with this program students can see the rewards and benefits of staying drug free. One way he hopes to promote this is by schools and local businesses to give these students perks, such as some much off a meal, extra credit towards a class or test or a pass on one day of conditioning if the student plays a sport.
Every student who signs up for the Drug Free Club will receive an ID card. To continue to stay in the club, students must be able to pass all of the drug tests that will be given in that year.
The test results will not be given to anyone and is extremely confidential. If a test result does come back positive, the parents will receive a phone call. The student will have a chance to take another drug test. If he or she fails that test, then they will be asked to turn in their ID and no longer in the club.
The test cost about $60, which McFarland is hoping to receive donations from local clubs and businesses to help the kids cover two-thirds of the cost. Those who can not cover the remaining cost, could receive funding as well.
Freshmen who sign up and stays in the program for until his or her senior year, will get their senior year free. West Liberty State College is offering a scholarship for Drug Free Club members who plan on attending there.
"Right now in the county we are dealing with a giant jump in the selling of prescription drug medication and with that being said, it is leading into heroin becoming very popular in the area," said McFarland. "We have to find a way to get the youth of the community to realize the importance of staying away from drugs and the affects it can have later down the line. With this program, I hope everyone in the county comes together and help, I think it could be a huge success."