“We have a major problem,” says Assistant Administrator Margie Weber, Wayne County Drug and Alcohol, when it comes to underage drinking in Wayne County. The problem includes middle school age kids, as young as 13, she said.


“We have a major problem,” says Assistant Administrator Margie Weber, Wayne County Drug and Alcohol, when it comes to underage drinking in Wayne County. The problem includes middle school age kids, as young as 13, she said.
“It’s not just Wayne County. Every single county is experiencing this,” says Executive Director Bonnie Tolerico, Wayne County Drug and Alcohol.
Last year, 54 Wayne County adolescents completed an underage drinking class, mandated by the district magistrate, Tolerico said. “We don’t usually see it that often that kids come forward (for help) on their own,” Weber said. “Usually we see them when they’ve gotten into some other trouble.”
Tolerico says a Certified Prevention Specialist from Wayne County Drug and Alcohol meets daily with teachers from the three local school districts: Wayne Highlands, Western Wayne and Wallenpaupack, to see how students are doing. During those meetings, a teacher might mention a student who’s not doing their homework and is falling asleep in class. Tolerico said they’d look into that further to find out if that student is using. Students referred to them undergo a pre-assessment or initial screening. Questions include: What are you using? How much are you using? Who are your friends? Are they using? How is your home life? and more, Tolerico said. Some students are open, others are defensive. A total of 145 student pre-assessments were completed last year within the three school districts. Of that number, 40 students were assessed for treatment due to their use, requiring outpatient or inpatient treatment, Tolerico said. “They’re using so much, they need treatment,” she said. 
Tolerico said they’d like to stop underage drinking from being the norm. Calling it “mood altering and against the law,” Tolerico said it’s, “a progressive disease. So, we’re going to try to intervene like we would in anyone’s life.”
Underage drinking can lead to a lot of hardship, including death, bad judgment, getting into trouble with the law and other negative consequences, Tolerico said. 
The signs and symptoms of alcohol use might include: changes in attitude, grades dropping, staying out late, glassy eyes, odor of alcohol, change in their friends, things missing (items stolen from the family to buy drugs), Weber said.
Weber says the most important thing an adolescent or parent needs to remember is that, “There is help available. It’s here. It’s free. And it’s confidential.” Along with trained professionals on staff to sit down with a student or parent, Weber says they also have a lot of free literature available, such as: negative effects of the use of alcohol, what parents can do if they suspect their child has a problem, and signs and symptoms of use.
Wayne County Drug and Alcohol is located across from the Earl J. Simons Senior Center in Honesdale. If you’d like to talk with someone, you may call Wayne County Drug and Alcohol at 253-6022, Monday through Friday, 8-4:30 p.m. or stop in. 

Advice For Parents
WAYNE COUNTY— “I tell every parent who tells me, ‘I tell my kids not to drink and drive’ [that] you’re part of the problem,” says Tom Frisk, Site Coordinator for the Rural Communities Initiative (RCI) , Wayne County Drug and Alcohol. He tells parents to knock the “and drive” part off of the message. Tell them plain out — don’t drink, he says.       
Frisk says some parents, not all, start conversations with their kids as if drinking is a foregone conclusion. “They don’t start where their supposed to start — ‘Don’t Drink.’ End of story.”
Frisk says they completed a study in 2005 at Honesdale High School. “Answers are confidential, so the kids are pretty honest,” he said. Of the kids who admitted drinking, 57 percent said they got the alcohol from their parents or a friend’s parent. “Not that they gave it to them,” Frisk said, but that they had easy access, in a refrigerator etc. “The same percentage said they were greatly influenced in their choices by their parent’s approval or disapproval,” Frisk said. He says kids are listening to what you have to say, so don’t send mixed messages. “Drinking is absolutely not allowed,” Frisk says sends a clear message.  “Parents need to stop or somehow get away from that mindset, ‘There’s nothing we can do about it.’ There’s something they can do about it,” he says. 
 In 2005, as part of the RCI, Frisk helped form the Healthy Alcohol-Free Teens or HAFT program at Honesdale High School. “We actually recruited kids that were former drinkers,” he said. Those kids tell the story. They drank because they wanted to fit in. “You don’t have to be in that crowd that drinks to be cool and successful,” he said. “We have to change that perception that everybody’s doing it, because everyone’s not doing it,” Frisk said.