By HANNAH MABRY
ERATH COUNTY (April 12, 2016) – If you’re looking to join a club, the Erath County Community Coalition is the one to join. The Coalition is dedicated to positively promoting healthy lifestyles for local youth.
Tuesday night the coalition hosted a Community Conversation at Hard 8 Barbeque that centered on mental health and substance abuse in the area. Attendees discussed the causes and effects of teen drinking and drug usage as well as methods to end these bad habits.
“We want to bring everyone together that is interested in change,” Coalition Coordinator Macy Grant said. “Mental health and substance abuse are often taboo subjects, and they’re also misunderstood. We’re here tonight to erase the stigma and talk about what we can do as a community to educate others and help those who suffer from these issues.”
The evening started with dinner and fellowship, and afterwards Grant welcomed attendees and introduced four speakers who are passionate and involved in ending substance abuse. The first was Rhonda Evans, the current Coalition President. Evans is a master-level addiction counselor. Next was Andrew Weeks who currently works at Lovell Counseling. Debra Knauss, Chief Executive Officer of Touchstone Ranch Recovery Center, also spoke. Finally, Drew Rio, a member of Young People in Recovery, gave input and shared experiences from his life.
“The biggest thing is awareness, and in most places there isn’t enough awareness,” Rio said. “Hopefully that will become one of the priorities out of this group tonight.”
One of the main topics was the lack of entertainment spots for students in the county. Many expressed concern, saying that this leads teens to drinking.
“Stephenville doesn’t have anything for our youth. There’s nothing for them to positively put their energy towards, so they turn to parties,” community member Ivory Garza said.
Participants brainstormed ideas and positive solutions to problems such as this one. There were many different perspectives represented. The coalition is made up of parents of local teens, directors and members of various organizations and businesses in the area, as well as a state trooper. The Coalition desires to involve the entire community in preventing teen substance abuse and helping those who struggle with it.
“It’s kind of the same as voting,” Coalition Treasurer Kellie Ulbricht said. “If you vote, you make a difference. This is your way to locally make a difference. It’s building a safer environment for your children and grandchildren and those that come after you.”
For more information on the Coalition, go the their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/erathcommunitycoalition