Healthy Approach to Tackling SWHS’ Drug Problems Throuh new Funds

Madisun Tobisch, Chief

With a nationwide wave of substance abuse concerns, specifically vaping, crashing in as the new school year begins, Sedro-Woolley School District is making use of two recent grants to target the issue through resources and support.
The money has come at an important time with a national rise in vaping related deaths.
SWHS’ Student Assistance Counselor, Chris Kennedy feels that from his perspective, he has seen a broader range of people that are vaping one or more times.
“It’s really skyrocketed in my opinion,” he said. Kennedy partially attributes the rise to the fact that vaping has become a cultural norm.
“The people that I am talking to that are vaping are from every walk of life and it’s unbelievable how many are saying, ‘I don’t know how to stop,’” said Kennedy.
The pair of grants were officially received in December of last year from United General’s Community Health Outreach Program and the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery’s Community Wellness Prevention Initiative.
The combined totals of the grants reach over $200,000, and are intended to help the community to spread awareness about substance abuse prevention, and encourage and inform both staff and students on safe habits when it comes to drugs and alcohol. The grants are renewable for up to five years of financial support in combating the most prevalent problems facing students of SWSD.
“We just want to make sure that we have a tobacco free, vape free, weapons free campus, for the safety of all students,” said Danny Crosby, Security officer for the school. The school plans to implement more public information about the dangers of vaping around the school, through various forms of public messaging in order to, “try to get the message out about how dangerous it is,” said Crosby.
Recently, the SWHS website created an alert for all visitors advertising the prevention page, which lists the contact information of both Kennedy and Roberta Marrtinelli, SWHS’ team of counselors who focus on substance abuse.
Martinelli is newly hired under the title Student Assistance Professional and a direct result of the funding made available through the pair of grants. She spends her time between SWHS and State Street High School and urges students to come and talk with either her or Kennedy about any questions or situations they may be facing relating to not just drugs and alcohol, but relationships, and stress management as well. Martinelli admits that she doesn’t have all the answers, but what she does have is a safe and confidential place for students to share their voice. Martenelli is also working as an advisor of a club based around making support for those choosing to remain sober more widespread and normalized.
The SWHS WISH (We Inspire Safe Habits) Club has hit the ground running this school year, and are not taking the topic of student substance abuse lightly. “Peers I have talked to at SWHS have the attitude that it won’t happen to them, when in reality it’s happening to them right now, said Communications Officer Emma Hoboy. “They are risking their lives for a ten second headrush.”
The club will be hosting Red Ribbon Week in the last week of October with spirit days as well as plenty of information on the facts of substance abuse.
The recent surge of vape related deaths is striking fear into some students. One anonymous student of SWHS shared that they quit just before the first day of school due to the recent deaths. “I know a couple people who have stopped, but I also know some people who don’t care,” said the student. After vaping for about a year using several brands of product including Juul and Suorin, they decided to wean themselves off. The fear is real in the halls of SWHS the reality of death caused by something that has become so normalized in the halls is hitting. “I don’t want to be like that,” said the student on those who are suffering from serious lung injuries because of their usage.
Because of the grants, the school is now able to offer more support than ever to those struggling to quit. “I try to do it in a way where we’re having a conversation and try to put things into perspective,” said Kennedy. “ A lot of it’s one on one or it’s two on one and it’s going through a lot of the addiction mindset and provide information that’s non threatening and not scare tactics,that doesn’t work- research shows that.”
As the school year continues and more and more research on vaping and teen substance abuse in general is coming to light, it’s safe to say that the students of Sedro-Woolley School District can prepare themselves for more emphasis on finding the lifestyle that benefits them the most.