MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — Underage drinking and illegal drug use by kids is grabbing the attention of people in Piatt County.
A survey shows many teenagers are doing it. Every two years the University of Illinois School of Social Work surveys kids in 8th, 10th and 12th grade. It finds patterns in students’ use of illicit drugs and alcohol consumption.
There is a lingering concern in many parents’ minds when it comes to their kids. Rich Ratts’ kids go to schools in Monticello. He says, “A lot of us as parents have first hand evidence from conversations with our students about the reality of what’s happening in our schools.”
His children have come home with stories of other kids drinking and using drugs. While second hand information is one thing, first hand accounts of illegal substance abuse is another. Students in Piatt County are admitting to what’s happening through a county wide survey in their schools.
Tony Kirkman is the Executive Director of Piatt County Mental Health Center. He says, “They’re looking at 8, 10, and 12th graders self-reporting on a myriad of different behaviors that would include anything from drinking to marijuana use and other illicit drugs.”
The survey asked 452 students in three different schools to share what they’ve done. Kirkman says, “Of high school students in Piatt County, 33% of those are actively consuming alcohol or saying they’re getting that knowingly from their parents. 22% of all eighth graders in this county have said they consumed alcohol in the last year.”
Kirkman wants parents to educate their kids about the risks of addiction and substance abuse. The health center is doing its part to help with that.
He says, “We have a program for youth prevention education that goes into the classrooms talking about all of these risk factors.”
Piatt County’s survey numbers are below the state average. But Ratts says he doesn’t want substance abuse to happen at all. “Everybody should have a stake in this because if our youth and students aren’t healthy and safe then ultimately our community won’t be safe.”
The next will be taken this upcoming school year.