Nearly three years ago, the Maryland State Department of Education released the results of a broad-reaching survey which showed that rates of substance abuse for youth in Talbot Countywere among the highest in the state. The County ranked second highest for adolescent admissions to substance and alcohol treatment programs. Soon after, a Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC), appointed by the Talbot County Council, developed a plan of action for reducing those rates. One of the BRC strategies is to assist parents and other adults to identify substance abuse and make referrals.
Enter TurnAround, a free service which has been available for the last 8 years, to help Talbot County parents determine if their child is involved in drugs or alcohol. The program is offered through the Talbot County Health Department, in conjunction with Talbot Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing the community on issues pertaining to substance abuse prevention. TurnAround provides free, drop-in drug and alcohol screening and intervention programs for Talbot County youth under age 18. It is a completely confidential process in accordance with federal regulations.
According to Brighton Laznovsky, who along with Kelly Reynolds, works as an adolescent addictions counselor with TurnAround, “Our process is initiated when parents stop by with their child, although we also take appointments. In most cases, either Kelly or I will be available right then to get the urine screening process started to help parents determine if a child is using drugs or alcohol. We talk to the kids first, then the parents. It’s important to us that everyone feels as supported and accepted as possible.”
Mark Carpenter, Program Director for Talbot County Addictions Program, states that the program reaches three to four kids a month, or just under 50 kids a year. He adds, “That may not seem like much, but when you think about the possibility of affecting the lives of 50 youth in the area, that’s a great thing.” When asked about successes and failures, Carpenter explains that while there are no statistics available to chart that particular data, “Every kid who comes through this program is successful in some way because they’ve reached out for help. For parents, there’s a stigma attached to coming in, but we know for sure that the earlier there is intervention, the better.”
Lauren Carter, Clinical Director of the Talbot County Addictions Program, describes some of the difficulties in getting kids through the doors. “Families who know about the program are hesitant to call for help believing they can handle the problem themselves. Still others view the initial screening as sufficient and don’t choose to follow up on the recommendations of the clinicians and counselors. Unfortunately, this decision just tends to prolong the agony,” says Carter.
Education is a key component to the program’s ability to reach families. Along with continually striving to present information to parents, Talbot Partnership and the Health Department also work with key members of the community. Education is targeted to pediatricians, guidance counselors and school nurses, hospitals, psychiatrists and other treatment programs. Carpenter acknowledges, “The biggest hurdle is that we’re dealing with some 350 years of acculturation and an attitude of acceptance for alcohol and drug use. The ‘gatekeepers’, like school nurses and pediatricians, help us reach families.”
While other counties have intervention programs of their own, TurnAround is unique to TalbotCounty. For more information about TurnAround, call 410-819-5900 or visit the Talbot Partnership website at http://talbotpartnership.org/turnaround.html.