THE BELMONT County Drug Task Force is taking a proactive stance with youth.
The task force is developing a program to implement inside Belmont County's nine high schools. It is designed to promote staying drug free, and is being called the Drug Free Club.
It is modeled after one that has been met with great success in the neighboring Ohio County schools system.
Such a program makes sense. Educating students on the perils of drug use before they become exposed to them will go along way in keeping youth from engaging in such activity.
Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland is the drug task force commander and one of the driving forces in creating the Drug Free Club.
"The main focus is on rewarding kids who choose not to do drugs," McFarland noted. "In this area, something has to happen to have the younger generation realize the effects of drugs and the consequences of being on drugs. It may start off as something small but eventually it may lead to something bigger."
The project will be fueled by giving perks to those students who opt to remain drug free. If local businesses become partners with the Drug Free Club, they may help with the reward systems, such as offered reduced meal prices. Schools may offer extra credit towards a class or test or a pass on one day of conditioning if the student plays a sport.
West Liberty State College is offering a scholarship for Drug Free Club members who plan on attending. There is no end to ways students can receive positive reinforcement for making the right decision.
McFarland is being expertly assisted in the program's development by Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas, Juvenile Judge Mark Costine, soon-to-be Northern Court Judge Chris Berhalter and Martins Ferry Solicitor Dan Fry.
Every student who signs up for the Drug Free Club will receive an ID card. To continue to stay in the club, students must be able to pass all of the drug tests that will be given in that year.
The test results will not be given to anyone and are confidential. If a test result turns up positive, the parents will receive a phone call. The student will have a chance to take another drug test. If he or she fails that test, then they will be asked to turn in their ID and no longer be in the club.
The best way to beat drug abuse is not to start.
The Belmont County Drug Task Force has hit on an idea that will undoubtedly keep many more youths drug free.