The Family Center hosts drug and alcohol awareness talks

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 17, 2015


GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Debra Jay, an expert in helping families deal with substance abuse and addiction matters, says substance abuse and addiction is a communitywide issue that can come knocking on one’s door at any point in life.

Whether it’s a parent, a teen, a neighbor, a friend or a coworker, there may be a point in life where someone asks for help with a problem. To help guide that person toward help and recovery, people will need to know what steps to take, Jay said.

She said one in three families lives with or is related to someone with a problem.

“This is no small issue, and people are not alone,” Jay said. 

“Substance abuse can hurt a family in very significant ways,” she said.

Jay is one of the speakers who is slated to participate in The Family Center of Grosse Pointe & Harper Woods’ event, “Drugs and Alcohol: What Parents and Professionals Need to Know” from 6:15-8:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, 16 Lakeshore Drive in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Jay is giving the keynote address, “Confronting Realities, Preventing Tragedies.”

“Debra Jay is a noted author, national interventionist and ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ veteran,” Family Center Communications & Program Support Coordinator Paige Domzalski said in an email. “She is also a Grosse Pointer.”

Jay said this isn’t a program only for people who are dealing with these issues presently.

“Everybody in the community needs to know this,” she said.

“I’m passionate about this,” Jay said, adding that she grew up with a father who suffered from alcoholism and another family member who became addicted to marijuana.

She notes the difference between addiction and substance abuse because the two don’t always go hand in hand, but both can have devastating consequences.

“I’m really going to be focused on what families need to understand and information they probably haven’t seen before,” she said, adding that she wants people to understand “how important it is to know how to handle the problems of alcohol and drugs in their family.”

The Family Center has enlisted a number of community members and experts to participate in the program, including a drug recognition expert from Macomb Community College’s Criminal Justice Training Center, a detective from the Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Department and a Grosse Pointe Schools counselor.

“Given the recent rise in tragic overdoses and drug-related deaths in the community (from both current and former residents), our February 26 event at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church titled ‘Drugs and Alcohol: What Parents and Professionals Need to Know’ is going to be very educational and timely,” Domzalski said.  

For teens, the damage from drinking and drugs can cause lifelong problems, Jay said.

These are substances that have been proven to “change their brains and neurons” in ways that may be permanent. The changes can impact them emotionally and cognitively, which could cause issues with learning.

“They can color an entire person’s life,” Jay said.

Following the keynote speech, the program will include multiple breakout sessions. The breakout sessions will focus on “Necessary Talks,” “Prescription Drugs and Pharm Parties,” “Narcotics, Heroin and Other Drugs,” and “Consequences, Legal and Beyond.”

Catherine Zatkoff, a planning committee member for The Family Center and a counselor at Grosse Pointe South, will take part in one of the breakout sessions.

“After we heard about the fifth former graduate from South dying from drugs and alcohol or both, we decided that it was time to address the issue,” she said in an email. “Our target audience is parents and professionals. It’s not an easy discussion, but it is one that needs to happen. We need to address this as a community.

“Family involvement is imperative and plays a key role in helping anyone dealing with the disease of addiction,” she said.

She’s doing other work in the community, as well.

Her breakout session is “Consequences, Legal and Beyond,” alongside Farms Public Safety Detective John Walko.

“I am in private practice in (St. Clair Shores), and I am in the process of putting a teen substance abuse group together,” Zatkoff said. “(Walko) has been looking for a program like mine to refer the teens that he arrests for illegal drug or alcohol use. We both hope to see a reduction in the amount of teens that are abusing substances, and that is why we were asked to present.”

Reserve a spot for the free seminar at (313) 432-3832 or at