LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Members of an organization that helps keep teenagers away from drugs and alcohol say they are ready to do more. On Thursday, the Long Beach Substance Abuse Task Force celebrated the beginning of a new era as the Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force. The name change is part of an effort to expand the group's reach to educate both teenagers and their parents.
After Angie Johnson lost her 19-year-old son Derrick to a drug overdose, her mission became keeping other young people from going down that road.
"In continuing with our mission in forming the Long Beach Substance Abuse Task Force, I feel like we've been able to make a difference in people's lives," said Johnson.
Now, as the Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force, members hope to save more lives by reaching more teens.
"It is more than a name change," Executive Director Carolyn Anderson said. "We are anxious to move into other communities to help them get organized, to get programs in place, to get training in place, prevention on the road to make a difference in the lives of teens across Harrison County and the Gulf Coast."
Teens in the Task Force's youth leadership program helped to serve a celebratory lunch Thursday. They say most of the young people who use drugs and alcohol don't have a good support system at home.
"Maybe their parents don't teach them what's right," said high school senior Tiffany Richmond. "That's probably the only way that they feel they have friends is if they try to fit in that way."
"A lot of us have grown up with our parents teaching us that we can stand up for ourselves, so you kind of know what's right from wrong," high school senior Taylor Skellie said.
One of the goals of the Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force is to expand training for parents.
"Parents' attitude and a child's fear of disappointing their parent is really important," said Anderson. "So if a parent has a very strict attitude towards substance abuse and use, then a child is usually more in tune with, I don't want to hurt my parent's feelings. This big fear that my parents would find out."
The Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force said it is also expanding drug abuse prevention programs for teachers, churches, and other coalitions. If you would like to become a member, call (228) 864-1164 or firstname.lastname@example.org