'Drug summit' participants search for solutions


About three weeks ago, county police Officer Roger Crawford was patrolling in Odenton when he saw a youth coming out of a liquor store with a keg of beer.

The officer stopped the car after it made an illegal U-turn on Route 175. The driver admitted to being under 21, surrendered the keg and the bottle of whiskey he was carrying, then led the officer to an Odenton home where a party had been planned. About 25 people were arrested at the house, police said.

Maj. William Donoho recounted the incident yesterday at a county seminar on drug and alcohol abuse to highlight the importance of "keeping your eyes and ears open."

Donoho said the officer was on the street as part of Operation SAFE, a program aimed at preventing drug-related highway fatalities during the spring prom and graduation seasons, when teen-age drinking is traditionally at its peak.

In that case, the officer was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to see the violation, Donoho said. In many other cases, police must rely on help from the communities they serve.

"We cannot enforce drug and alcohol problems away," Donoho said. "We need to work with communities."

Donoho's comments came yesterday at a "drug and alcohol summit" at Anne Arundel Community College that focused on the need to work with communities.

The event, sponsored by the county Health Department, brought together police and health officials, as well as social workers, ministers and personnel supervisors, to discuss the issue. It comes two weeks after a independent report that identified alcohol as the "dominant" substance-abuse problem in the county and said only one in three people in need of treatment are receiving it. The $132,000 report served as a focus of yesterday's event.

Participants heard an address by County Executive Robert R. Neall, then broke into discussion groups of six and eight for two hours of talks about ways to identify and combat drug and alcohol abuse.

Donoho and Capt. Michael Fitzgibbons talked about two police programs, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, which has put officers in the schools, and Police and Community Together, which has put them in communities.

Social workers and ministers told Deena Goldsmith, a Health Department community resource specialist, that the county lacks both adequate treatment facilities and public transportation for those in need of treatment.

"I came out because I was interested in resources that might be available," said Glendale Johnson, a social worker in a one-year program to combat drug abuse in the Anne Arundel County Housing Authority communities.

Her group drew up a list of treatment facilities, which included North Arundel Hospital, Open Door, Chrysalis House and the Harundale Youth and Family Services Center.

Sharon Hall, who specializes in combating drug abuse in the workplace, distributed a 16-page booklet put together by the Health Department that listed trouble signs of employees with drug problems, and ways to handle workers returning from treatment.

She said random drug testing is a trend among major employers, but that a key to fighting drug abuse lies in providing communities with alternatives.

"We need more mentors in a lot of these communities. A lot of these communities just do not have positive role models."

Among county employees, county Personnel Director Donald Tynes Sr. said 700 police officers, detention center correctional officers, sheriff's deputies and deputy fire marshals are subject to random drug testing.

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