published Friday, October 21st, 2011

Coalition pushes drug abuse danger awareness


• What: Turn in unused or expired medications for safe disposal

• When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Oct. 28; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 29

• Where: Bradley County Sheriff's Office

• Sponsors: Bradley sheriff, GRAAB and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A coalition of community groups and service providers is over the halfway mark in a 31-day campaign to remind the public of the perils of drug and alcohol abuse.

Schools, civic clubs, local public access television, the public library, social media and civic clubs are some of the venues used by GRAAB (Going Respectfully Against Addictive Behavior) during October.

Today, the campaign goes to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland's Tucker Unit on Third Street for an 8 a.m. prayer breakfast. Next week the coalition takes part in Drug Take Back Week with the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.

"We didn't know what to expect because this is the first time we have done this," said Joyce Vanderpool, coalition coordinator. "But it has been beautifully received."

The GRAAB Coalition was founded in 2006. It and the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland were awarded a National Drug Free Communities grant in 2010. The grant, awarded through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, provides $125,000 annually for five years, renewable each of those years, and with local matching money, volunteer hours or in-kind services.

Tanya Southerland, grant coordinator, said terms of the grant include public education about prescription, over-the-counter and inhalant drugs as well as alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

"We know these problems are here," she said, "but we need to have information to back that up, so we know in what direction we need to be going."

That means knowing more about drugs being abused locally, she said.

During the second year of the grant, which has begun, the coalition will conduct listening sessions involving youths as well as adults.

Daniel P. Burrell, youth development director with the Bradley Initiative for Church and Community, said his organization seeks to get young people talking to their peers about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. The initiative is one of GRAAB's dozens of partners.

"If we can get their peers all saying the same thing, we feel we have hit the ball out of the park," he said.

Rachel Lowe, family coordinator at Cleveland Middle School, said the school schedules parents' awareness sessions four times each school year and uses the coalition's services.

Vanderpool said more community education campaigns are coming soon, including special sessions for seniors about avoiding addiction to their prescription drugs.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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