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Getting Help for Teen Substance-Abusers

— If teens want to obtain drugs or alcohol in the local area, it’s fairly easy for them to do so. But it’s also just as easy to get them help for their addictions.

Jessica Williams, for example, works for the Fairfax County/Falls Church Community Services Board and has an office at Westfield High. Her organization provides services in the fields of mental illness, disabilities and substance abuse.

“We’re a student-assistance program in the high schools,” she explained to parents attending a recent CAC meeting. “I work with families and school staff and provide education and outreach for parents. I also do free, student substance-abuse and mental-health assessments.”

Since, said Williams, “A lot of parents think it’s not their children involved in alcohol,” she provided those at the meeting with written information about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse.

“If a parent suspects something, they can contact his or her child’s school to have an assessment done on their child — and it’s confidential,” she said. “Students don’t always want to get help, but we try to educate them.”

Centreville residents Greg Lannes and Greg Richter, whose daughters both became involved with heroin, also gave advice.

“The earlier parents get help for their children, the less chance they’ll end up in our circumstances,” said Lannes. Richter recommended seeking out Sober Nation, a database that provides nationwide addiction-treatment information. “It has a Web site, www.sobernation.com, and a 24-hour hotline that’s a great resource for parents,” he said.

After Lannes’s daughter Alicia died of a heroin overdose in 2008, he, Richter and some others started P.R.O.T.E.C.T. (Parents Reaching Out To Educate Communities Together). It’s a coalition of concerned parents, school and county entities and substance-abuse treatment professionals.

It meets the second Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Alcohol and Drug Services office, 14150 Parkeast Circle, No. 200, in Chantilly. It also puts on school-community programs called “Protecting Against the Realities of Substance Abuse.”

The goal is to educate parents about substance abuse, prevention and the resources available to them to help protect children, families and communities from the dangers of alcohol and other drugs. For more information, contact Jennifer Lewis-Cooper at jalcooper@aol.com or go to www.unifiedpreventioncoalition.org.

“Drugs and alcohol are part of our society, and we have to continually fight that war,” said police Capt. Purvis Dawson, commander of the Sully District Station. “But we can’t do it alone. You know your community better than we do. So if you have a problem, contact us.”