The St. Francois County Community Partnership is beginning a Parent Education Program to discuss and inform parents of the negative and harmful effects that marijuana use has on children and young adults related to brain development and other disorders.
Partnership Director Al Sullivan said that by 2016 there may be enough petition signatures to put it on the ballet in Missouri to legalize marijuana for recreational use or not.
“Being involved with children and families, we are very concerned that if recreational use of marijuana is approved, then it is going to be very detrimental to the children’s health,” said Sullivan. “Marijuana use by 14 to 20 year olds is very dangerous on brain development and many other disorders that affects the young body much more drastically than it does someone who is 35 or 40 years old that uses marijuana.”
This program is made possible with a grant from the ACT Missouri, the Department of Mental Health and the Division of Behavioral Health. During the first fiscal year, the parents of eighth and ninth grade students from Bismarck, Central and West County school districts are being targeted.
He said the purpose of targeting this program to the parents of eighth and ninth graders is that the average age of children using illegal substances, whether it would be alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, is about 12 and half years of age. Research has shown that discussion of parents with their children often are the most effective to deal with the subject.
“In the states that have legalized it, such as Colorado, the high grade marijuana is on the table being used as a condiment just like parmesan cheese,” said Sullivan. “We have not been able to keep cigarettes or alcohol away from children in the homes because the parents don’t have any type of security with it and they are able to get it. They will get the marijuana the same way, use it and have the resulting defects from it.”
The program consists of a “Parent Tool Kit” for talking with their children about marijuana. There will be a mailing of six large postcards that are 5 by 8 in size, over an eight-month period dealing with topics such as the impairment to learning, signs and symptoms of use, and use and driving. The postcards include a narrative and places to find additional resources.
“If we can reach the children and reach the parents to have discussions with their children to try to avoid participating in those risky behaviors, then we feel we are much better at getting a curve on it then trying to treat the person after they are addicted,” said Sullivan.
In the second year of funding, the Farmington and North County school districts will be included in the Parent Education Program. Following the mailings there will be a series of radio spot ads dealing with these topics. Also this material will be added to the St. Francois County Mental Health Board’s resource website in the parent section of the substance abuse prevention area of the website.
To see some of this information, visit dailyjournalonline.com/gallery