Drug Free Clubs program promoted as a 'piece of the puzzle' in Norwalk

Cary Ashby • Mar 17, 2018 at 10:00 PM

The Norwalk public and parochial schools may be joining Drug Free Clubs of America.

Superintendent George Fisk made a brief presentation to the Norwalk City Schools board of education recently to see if board members might be willing to support it. Drug Free Clubs of America is an initiative supported by Norwalk Economic Development Corp. (NEDC).

“A board resolution wasn’t necessary, but we wanted board support and input,” Fisk said after the meeting.

NEDC Director Heather Horowitz said she told investors she supports Drug Free Clubs since NEDC is supposed to help the economy and residents won’t want to move to Norwalk and businesses may decide not to locate here if there is a local drug problem that isn’t being addressed.

“It’s a piece of the puzzle,” Horowitz added.

Students become members of the club once they pass a confidential drug test. Fisk said Fisher-Titus Medical Center is expected to administer the tests at little to no cost for the students and/or families, however there could be a $5 to $10 membership fee.

“The school would never know if the student failed,” Horowitz added.

Drug Free Clubs, on its website, describes its mission as protecting the “nation’s youth from the horrors of drug abuse, using highly effective tactics to foster their bright futures.” Started by Cincinnati firefighters in 2005, the organization indicates it envisions “a promising generation of healthy, safe teens who are confident that they can depend on our strategies to defend and encourage their drug-free lives.”

Fisk, in presenting to the school board, described Drug Free Clubs as “a wraparound service” that focuses on students and their families who would volunteer to join. The superintendent said he envisions the club focusing on the “middle group” of students who may be at risk for using drugs.

“It’s one more tool in the tool box to (address) peer pressure,” Fisk said.

Horowitz sees Drug Free Clubs as another way to prevent teenagers from using drugs.

“It’s really about rewarding behavior. … It’s all positive,” she said. “You’re not going to scare the (students) who already do (drugs).”

Horowitz said one of the next steps in the process, besides funding, is getting local businesses on board so students can show their Drug Free Clubs card to them for various incentives.

In Wooster, students have received discounts at pizza places and admission to special movie screenings. Essentially, club members show their cards to businesses which recognize their drug-free lifestyle.”

On March 21, Norwalk Catholic School President Dennis Doughty is scheduled to present information to the board for approval.

Horowitz became interested in Drug Free Clubs when she worked for EHOVE Career Center and was at a conference. She said that interest gained momentum after a recent opioid-based, call-to-action event at Norwalk High School.

“They said everyone needs to help,” Horowitz added. “Since then it (the club) has grown.”

Next she set up a meeting with Fisher-Titus officials, Fisk, Doughty, Huron County commissioners, Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan and Family Life Counseling. After that Horowitz met with Teen Leadership Corps students from NHS and St. Paul High School to gauge their interest and then had a follow-up meeting.