Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis doesn’t want to see your kid in his jail — unless it’s on a tour for social studies. But he knows the straightest path to one of his cells is for teens to get hooked on booze, marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine. These substances help you make bad choices in life, he’ll tell you, and bad choices too often lead to trouble with the law and time in prison.
“Over 85 percent of the inmates incarcerated at the Worcester County House of Corrections are addicted to drugs or alcohol,” he told eighth-graders in Leominster on Friday. “As sh eriff, I have focused on prevention as the best way to keep our youth out of prison.”
To that end, he’s working to put a face to the problem — your kid’s face. His Face2Face drug prevention program, which made a stop at Samoset Middle School, allows young people to see a computer simulation of how drugs and alcohol can change their looks. The results aren’t pretty, and that’s what hit home with teens.
“Kids’ appearances are so important to them, so it has an impact,” he said during a visit to the Sentinel & Enterprise offices Monday.
Some would say scare tactics don’t work, but Evangelidis said the program aims to get kids’ attention enough so they make the right choices. “Kids might laugh when they see their image on the screen, but it makes them think,” Evangelidis said.
The program was paid for with donations from individuals and businesses who, like Evangelidis, believe education can lead to prevention. They know that too many teens are not making the right choices. According to a 2010 National Institute on Drug Abuse study, four out of 10 high-school seniors reported drinking some alcohol within the past month and more than one in three have engaged in binge drinking. About half of adolescents have abused an illicit drug at least once by 12th grade, the same study reported.
We applaud Sheriff Evangelidis and those who supported the program financially for making sure kids i n North Central Massachusetts get the message: Drug and alcohol abuse is ugly and deadly. Parents must be a part of the solution, opening regular dialogue with their kids.
The sheriff knows this program isn’t going to put the Worcester County House of Corrections out of business. But he deserves credit for trying to get kids – your kid – to come Face2Face with the scourge of drugs and alcohol.
– Sentinel & Enterprise