Alcohol, drugs and teens – Grant County's unhealthy mix

From Feb. 2, 2009: Kerryann Woomer, the county's prevention program manager, holds up a poster with a message about the harmful effects of alcohol on the brain, targeted specifically toward youth.

75 years ago

Former Mt. Vernon boy, a Filipino, in interesting letter tells why he fights

The following contributed article was written by Sergio M. Clemente, formerly of Mt. Vernon, and who is now serving in the U.S. armed forces in the South Pacific:

REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR! On that Sunday, December 7, 1941, we were treacherously attacked at the back by the Japanese. It was a premeditated attack, probably planned for months, maybe for years. Plane after plane came and showered rains of death and destruction on our men and fleet stationed at different points in Hawaii. We lost many lives and the Pacific Unit of our Navy was badly if not totally crippled. I tip my hat to those true Americans and liberty-loving men — both soldiers and civilians, at Pearl Harbor.

At the time, we failed to meet our foes. We did not want war; we were unprepared.

It was evident that the Philippines would be next. On December 8, 1941, Manila was bombed. Casualties of civilians, especially women and children were great. Several churches were blown to bits. The American civilization and influence, treasured by the Filipino people, were at the stake.

Incidentally, I was born in the Philippines, of a Filipino mother and father. I have three sisters and two brothers. Both of my brothers, at the time, are probably dead, if not prisoners of war by the Japanese. Sentiment of Nationality is boiling in my blood. Likewise, I, my people, relatives and countrymen, lived and learned to love everything American, and we will fight and defend Americanism to the bitter end. The blood of the whites, browns and blacks flowed in one stream at Bataan!

In the early stages of the Japanese venture for the conquest of China, our extra-territorial rights were not welcomed by the Japanese armies there. Especially in Shanghai, the Americans were mistreated by the invading hordes, and were robbed and plundered of their precious belongings. The gunboats Panay and Oahu were sunk in the Yellow River.

Representations were made in Tokyo, but were side stepped by the Japanese government. We did not find out anything but apologies. That was all right, we did not want war.

In the grim years of ’40 and ’41, our tradition: “Freedom of the Seven Seas,” was ignored by Hitler, Hirohito’s partner. The sea-lanes were no longer safe for our unarmed merchantmen. They were infested with German U-boats, ready to jump at their prey. Our eastern coast was prevalent with enemy submarines. The Reuben James was sunk. The City of Flint was a prize of war by Germany.

We notified Germany of such unlawful acts but with no favorable results. We are to blame for sending food supplies and materials of war to those nations at war with Germany. But these are the nations fighting for their existence and resisting Germany’s greed and lust for power. We did not take any further steps; we did not want war.

America is no longer to be pushed around. Two years ago, we failed to meet our foes, but today, we are united, determined and prepared to fight our enemies, on land, on the sea and in the air.

I fight to make America a better and safer place to live — for us, for those we love and care for, and for the future Americans. That our institutions, ideas and ideals — government of the people, by the people, and for the people — will live forever.

I fight for the spirit of ’76, and that Pearl Harbor, Wake and Bataan never failed.

I fight for the resurrection of our brother nations, manacled by the poisonous tentacles of the conquerors. That they too will live in peace once more and forever and the light of democracy will shine all over the world again.

IN GOD WE TRUST FOR OUR VICTORY!

25 years ago

First blood drive of ‘94

The first Grant County blood drive of 1994 was highly successful, 136 units of blood were donated, well over the 120 unit quota set by the Red Cross.

The Lewis and Clark Region of the America Red Cross, of which Grant County is a part, is headquartered in Boise, Idaho. Currently this region serves 89 hospitals in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The Blue Mountain Hospital of John Day is one of the hospitals served.

Twice a year, the Red Cross Bloodmobile arrives in Grant County, and along with the work of Red Cross personnel and many local volunteers the John Day Senior Center is transformed into a clinic-like atmosphere where blood donations by the people of the area are accepted.

Debi Hueckman and Wendy Rawlins are the co-chairpersons in charge of this bi-annual event, and were assisted at the drive by Monte Simmons, Terry Hughes and Ansel Krutsinger who did the unloading of the bloodmobile.

Reception duties were handled by Pam Durr, who was assisted by registrars: Donna Switzer, Wanda Clark and Debbie Thunell; taking medical histories were Darlene Casy, Claudia Evans, Nancy Chrisler, Johnnie Titus, Gina Orr, and Diana Rhyne.

Dolores Young and Penny Bennett performed as the labeling table aides; donor room aides were Penny Sheets, Sondra Lino and Sue Weigum.

Shannon Winegar and Chris Pryor were at the sealing machine; and handling refreshments were Degree of Honor members, Donna Mills, Joyce Pryse, Marie Yriarte, Ilah Grimsley and Doris Duckett.

Loading the bloodmobile for its return trip to Boise was Bill Hueckman, Kevin Krausse and Aaron Black.

Congratulations go out to these donors who received gallon pins — Dorothy Olsen, a six gallon pin; Dean Frazier and Glen Powell, received their three gallon pins; Gerrish Willis, Mary Ellen Brooks, each received a two gallon pin; Isabelle Negus, John Rowell, Sherral Whipple, LaVonne Robb, Steve Keegan and Donna Johnston all received their one gallon pins.

“This was really wonderful, one of the most successful drives we’ve ever had,” Hueckman said. “I just want to say thanks to everyone who volunteered, all the donors, and all the merchants who donated the meals that were given away during the course of the afternoon.”

10 years ago

Alcohol, drugs and teens – Grant County’s unhealthy mix

Community attitudes that are indifferent to underage drinking and easy access to alcohol for youth make for a risky mixture, says the county’s prevention program manager Kerryann Woomer.

After reviewing results from 2008 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey, given last spring, she says that some of the numbers have improved, but there’s still much prevention work to be done — and not just in individual homes, but in the community as well.

This year 68 Grant County eighth-graders and 65 of the 11th-graders voluntarily took the survey, which asks more than 100 questions about the students’ health, including personal safety and nutrition. Statewide 31,320 surveys were taken.

Results are used to help schools, state and local agencies and communities determine problem areas for teens and find solutions to help them live better, healthier lives and succeed academically.

Woomer focuses on the teens’ answers about alcohol, tobacco and drugs. She shared those results with area superintendents and Grant County Safe Communities Coalition.

Four years ago, Woomer began proctoring the surveys for Grant County. The county numbers used to be lumped in with surrounding counties, which she felt didn’t provide a clear local picture.

The 2008 survey provides, for the first time, a track of where those 11th-graders — this year’s seniors — are now, compared with when they were in eighth grade.

In 2005, 53 percent of eighth-graders reported that they first used alcohol before age 13. Statewide that number was 38 percent.

In 2008, 50 percent of 11th-graders — the same class from 2005 — reported using alcohol in the past 30 days. The statewide number was 46 percent.

“Students who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop abuse or addiction,” Woomer explained, and she noted that those numbers increase with a family history.

“When you delay use, you delay the risk of becoming addicted,” she added. “Students who wait to use alcohol until they’re older are less likely to go on to use other drugs such as marijuana and methamphetamines.”

The good news is that the numbers of Grant County 11th-graders reporting use of alcohol in the last 30 days has gone down, a fairly consistent pattern over the past four years. The current number is down by 11 percent from 2007.

Other good news was that eighth-graders reported using less tobacco, 4 percent, down by 9 percent from the previous year and less marijuana, 1.5 percent, down by 6 percent.

Reported tobacco use by 11th-graders also was down, from 39 percent in 2007 to 30 percent in 2008; however, marijuana use went up 1 percent to 14 percent.

Another area of concern is binge drinking.

While most 11th-graders reported that they didn’t binge drink, 33 percent reported they had five or more drinks in a row within a couple of hours in the past 30 days. The numbers were split between boys and girls.

Seven students reported binge drinking once in the last month, eight reported trying it two days, four said three to five days and one said six to nine days.

The brain is not developed until about age 25, Woomer noted. Binge drinking creates a toxic reaction, she said, causing the person to throw up.

“Alcohol is the No. 1 drug used in the U.S. and the county,” she said. It takes a toll on brain development and can lead to risky behaviors and injuries, she added.

A magnet in Woomer’s office shows a picture of a refrigerator with the slogan: “The easiest place for kids to get beer is right next to the milk: Take stock of your supply. Keep alcohol out of the hands of kids.”

The risk factor for underage drinking increases, she said, when alcohol is easily accessible and when teens believe that their parents and the community don’t care if they drink.

In Grant County, 71 percent of 11th-graders and 59 percent of eighth-graders reported it is “very easy” or “sort of easy” to get alcohol when they want.

Of those 11th-graders surveyed only 46 percent said their parents would think it would be “very wrong” if they used alcohol, and 56 percent of eighth-graders gave the same response.

To help curb the trend of underage drinking, Woomer says her office provides helpful information for parents and others, organizes media campaigns and they help sponsor alcohol and drug-free activities such as the New Year’s Eve party and Grad Night for area students. She’s also involved with the People Encouraging Prevention club at Grant Union High School.

Woomer said it’s important for parents to realize that they are influential, to share their views on harmful substances early and often and to know their children’s friends.

“Remember that teens, or any children, view silence and approval,” she noted, adding that she knows a lot of parents who’ve spoken with their children and they went ahead and made mistakes anyway.

To those parents, she says: “Just be the best parent and community member possible — support an environment that’s more family friendly. We all have a role to play. It’s all of us working together.”

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