Dallas County Cheese/Heroin Task Force
A dangerous combination of black tar heroin and nighttime pain relievers, often referred to as “cheese,” is taking its toll on Dallas area youth. “Cheese,” in combination with other drugs, has contributed to many youth deaths over the last two years, and has increased the number of emergency room visits and the demand for substance abuse treatment for youth in the Dallas area.
Early this year the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and other concerned citizens established the Dallas County Cheese/Heroin Task Force. The Task Force, made up of nearly 100 people, is composed of treatment providers, law enforcement personnel, educators, health professionals, government officials and other community members. “The number of people on the Task Force tells you about the level of commitment,” says Debbie Meripolski, the Task Force’s chair.
Using the Strategic Prevention Framework, available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Task Force developed and is now implementing their strategic plan.
The Dallas Police Department is increasing arrests for heroin distribution. Prevention providers are carrying out an aggressive public awareness campaign. The Dallas Park and Recreation Department is providing activities for youth in affected neighborhoods. And researchers on the Task Force are making sure that accurate data are collected so the problem can be tracked and understood. As Ms. Meripolski says, “The community’s response has been nothing short of miraculous.”
Ms. Meripolksi is already planning for the future. “My dream is that we’ll be able to sustain this really committed, enthusiastic group of people to keep moving forward,” she says, “until we’ve achieved our vision of a drug-free community.”
Ms. Meripolski shared her community’s experience with other coalitions at the 5th Regional Conference on Helping America’s Youth in Dallas, TX.
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