Local Coalition forms to reduce drug use and find help for addictsSep 23rd, 2013 | By admin | Category: Community
A new group, the St. Bernard Communi- ty Coalition, has been formed with a goal of reducing illegal drug use in the parish and help users find treatment programs.
“We’re here to save lives,’’ said Coalition Chairman Dan Schneider, a pharmacist whose son was a victim of drug-related violence. A 12-member board of directors has been chosen, consisting of a cross-section of parish leaders and interests.
Included on the board are Schneider, Sheriff James Pohlmann, Parish President David Peralta, Schools Superintendent Do- ris Voitier, Barbara Manuel, Justice of the Peace and long-time community activist in Violet; Pastor Otto Martin; Coroner Dr. Bry- an Bertucci; Floyd Gue of the Meraux Foun- dation; sheriff’s Maj. Chad Clark, head of the Special Investigations Division, which includes narcotics enforcement; Berridel J. Johnson, retired Postal Service employee and an ordained pastor; Joseph DiFatta, for- mer Parish Council Chairman, Chairman of the Parish Economic Development Foun- dation and board member of the Chamber of Commerce; and Kenny Zulli Sr. of The St. Bernard Parish Post. There are also two alternates— school system administrator Charles Cassar and Kerry Poche Sr., supervi- sor of the community service work program operated by the St. Bernard Parish Proba- tion Office.
Also, Polly Campbell, former Clerk of the Parish Council, retired teacher and ac- tivist in parish beautification efforts, was announced as the professional program di- rector for the Coalition, which is a part-time position.
Schneider also announced the Coalition has been awarded a $50,000 federal men- toring grant to begin basic operations to build on, including to help acquire further resources.
“We have a great board, with many key players as well as many more interested par- ties,’’ he said.
A priority will be to make it easier for par- ents of abusers or abusers themselves to find and afford rehabilitation programs.
“Too many have suffered death or de- struction of productive lives due to drug-re- lated tragedies and crime,” Schneider said.
“This must be curtailed, just as surely as the effects of coastal erosion have to be addressed for this parish to have a base to stand on. Our inability to act in a cohesive manner on drug abuse has not helped our community’s well-being, nor our economic recovery.
The Coalition board also has approved a resolution to work toward a drug-free com- munity that it wants to distribute through schools, churches, businesses and the rest
of the community. The resolution stresses the importance of parents and other parish residents focusing on trying to reduce drug abuse through educational efforts, re-habil- itation treatment for users and prison time for drug-dealers.
“We are asking the community to participate in a commitment to work to- wards a drug-free community,’’ Schneider said.
Coalition officials have met twice to lay the groundwork and a common thread among members’ opinions was the need for more resources for information and ed- ucation for parents and St. Bernard youth, primarily in our schools at all grade levels. Also discussed was the positive and negative influences of parents and how environmen- tal factors can be barriers to progress in re- ducing drug use.
Members said they want efforts direct- ed toward treatment of and recovery from drug abuse, along with compassionate yet firm enforcement of narcotics laws to make St. Bernard Parish a more desirable place to live. Sheriff Pohlmann has stressed us- ers deserve a chance for rehabilitation but drug-dealers need prison time because they will destroy lives purely to gain a profit.