Working for a healthy, drug-free community, SNAP returns to St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 11, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — A group that worked hard to let the community know about the opioid epidemic before it became national news and campaigned to keep parents from serving alcohol at parties has been resurrected to address the needs of the community.

The Shores Network for Action and Prevention, or SNAP, began meeting again in December after taking a hiatus since 2015. Now led by a community organizer from CARE of Southeast Michigan, the group of school and community leaders is looking for a new direction and a new plan to help prevent substance abuse in the youth of St. Clair Shores and the community.

Meeting for just the second time in January, SNAP is hoping to update its focus for 2019, said Andrea Gasperoni, a community organizer with CARE.

“People in St. Clair Shores are really taking this under their wing,” Gasperoni said Jan. 8 at the St. Clair Shores Public Library. “The idea is that everyone brings their own perspective to the table and we serve the community.”

The group, which currently includes the superintendents and representatives from each of the three local school districts, representatives from the Police Department and Fire Department, a representative from the senior center and other community members, is first taking an assessment of all the issues facing St. Clair Shores right now. Members reviewed data on arrests for drugs and alcohol, operating while under the influence, suicide rates and discipline rates in local schools for possession of alcohol, cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

Gasperoni said that assessment is the first prong of the approach, to be followed by capacity, planning, implementation and evaluation.

“Find out what the problems are. Who can help for the things that are found, and then plan and implement a program,” she said.

CARE is already working with students at Jefferson Middle School to address the problem of underage use of e-cigarettes, or vaping.

“They learned about the lack of research, the harmful chemicals that really don’t belong in your lungs, and they had some myths and facts clarified for them,” Gasperoni said.

She said many students didn’t know that vaping was harmful to their health, and illegal for youths under the age of 18.

“That went really well,” she said. “That’s what we’re hoping to do for everybody.”

SNAP wants to target problems in the community and, with members of the community, find ways to prevent the problems from occurring.

“Prevention works, and so if you get the word out in the community, just getting some of (the) information out there and doing communitywide education ... hopefully it can grow,” Gasperoni said.

Roman Hammes, a representative from the St. Clair Shores Senior Activity Center, said there are things that senior citizens can learn from a group like SNAP, too, such as keeping an eye on young people if they spend too much time in the bathroom while they are visiting — they could be taking drugs from the medicine cabinet, he said.

St. Clair Shores Police Community Resource Officer Chad Hammer said that it’s good to get everyone talking about potential problems and their solutions.

“Getting everyone to be involved in the community to figure out what the issues may be in our schools or community so that we can get ahead of things before they become bigger issues,” he said. “It’s good to get everyone around one table discussing issues so we can all be together on the same page.”

SNAP is one of nearly a dozen drug-free community coalitions supported by CARE, which received a grant from the Macomb County Office of Substance Abuse to pay for the community organizers. Anyone representing youth, parents, business, media, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement, civic and volunteer organizations, religious and fraternal organizations, health care, government or substance abuse organizations in St. Clair Shores is welcome to join the group, Gasperoni said.

SNAP meets from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at the St. Clair Shores Public Library, 22500 E. 11 Mile Road.

South Lake Schools Superintendent Ted VonHiltmayer said that the district’s participation in SNAP will benefit students and families on many levels.

“It gives us an opportunity to expand conversations with our students and families regarding the many dangers of drug use, specifically the use of marijuana by teens,” he said in an email interview. “This is especially timely considering the recent approval of recreational marijuana use in the state of Michigan.”

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