Battling substance abuse for everyone
By Kristy Blanchard
Editor's note: This column originally appeared in The McAllen
Read the original version here.
As a family law attorney, my work too often involves cases in which
people’s lives are disrupted and even destroyed by substance
abuse. As the president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, an arm
of the State Bar of Texas, I want to do all I can to avert young people
from this preventable fate.
This month, TYLA launched a new multimedia project that we believe
will make a difference by educating young people about the dangers and
real-life consequences of substance abuse. Through BSAFE: Battling
Substance Abuse For Everyone, we hope to provide resources to people
struggling with addiction while educating the public about substance
abuse and the benefits of drug courts that rehabilitate offenders.
Sadly, statistics show the need for this project. Four out of five
juvenile arrestees are either under the influence of drugs or alcohol
while committing their crimes, test positive for drugs, are arrested
for committing an alcohol or drug offense, admit to having substance
abuse problems, or share some combination of these characteristics,
according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at
The BSAFE project, funded by a Texas Bar Foundation grant, includes a
three-part DVD series and written materials for middle and high school
students, their parents, and educators. First, a peer-to-peer video
tells the story of young people who battled and overcame drug
dependence. Through their stories, viewers can see how easily someone
can slide from youthful experimentation to addiction.
Sometimes parents and educators don’t know the warning signs of
addiction or what to do once they see them. Through BSAFE, they can
find a pamphlet and video with tips on how to identify substance abuse
and locate resources to help them overcome it.
A third video explains the drug court system, which provides
first-time drug offenders with an opportunity to avoid criminal
prosecution in exchange for participating in an approved rehabilitation
program and remaining drug-free. The system is an alternative to
incarceration and has been successful in cutting recidivism in many
areas, including Texas.
Judge Ray Wheless of the 366th District Court in McKinney started a
drug court program in 2005 because he kept seeing the same defendants
come through his court. As he shares in a BSAFE video, the judge knew
he could shut the revolving door for some defendants by providing a way
to free them from substance abuse. “Drug court programs try to
stop the cycle of addiction,” he says. “We don’t give
up. We don’t send people to prison. We try to keep them here and
get them clean and sober.”
BSAFE differs from the well-known Drug Abuse Resistance Education
(DARE) program in that it uses peers, not police officers, to deliver
the message. We believe having young survivors share their stories
offers relatable role models to other young people and equips them to
make the right decision before they are ever offered their first
The materials are available to view now on the TYLA website, www.tyla.org. We are also
working to get the project into schools across the state, and we need
the help of teachers and other educators to make it happen. When a
school agrees to participate, TYLA will recruit young attorneys to
present the videos in class and talk with students about what they have
learned. If you are interested in participating, please contact TYLA at
800-204-2222, ext. 1529, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a law-based society, we have a responsibility to help our young
people avoid and overcome substance abuse. If you are a parent,
educator, or anyone in a position to influence our children, I hope you
will join us in this effort.
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