Drug and alcohol use up among Sarasota County kids

Sarasota County forming Community Youth Plan
Posted at 5:50 PM, Dec 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-21 17:50:26-05
It wasn't easy for Lindsey Luck, a Sarasota mother to get to this point.
'It took me almost 15 years to actually be able to say it's a disease, I'm a drug addict," Luck said.
Addiction to pain killers nearly ruined Luck's life. Now, she refuses to let her daughter Kyle go through the same thing.
"If you don't say no Kylie, and stand up for yourself,  this is jails, institutions, death, period," she said. "It's as simple as that."
Luck is working to fight against a surge in drug use among kids in Sarasota county,
SCOPE, an area non-profit, recently found that in 2014, nearly 36 percent of Sarasota County kids reported having used alcohol or any other illicit drug in the last 30 days. More recently, there was an 11 percent increase from 2012 to 2014 in youth drug use.
"I think we're at a hidden crisis point," said John McCarthy, executive director of SCOPE.
SCOPE looked into the numbers and worked to find out what was going on. They traced it back in part to a lack of parental supervision, boredom from a lack of afterschool activities and the availability of drugs in schools.
“You've got a situation where many of the students coming through on petty crimes are also testing positive for the drugs," McCarthy said.
Alcohol and drug use with kids has been consistently higher in Sarasota County compared with the state of Florida. There was a reported difference of nearly 9 percent as recently as 2014.
Now, SCOPE is working with Sarasota County and the Positive Youth Development Council to create a community youth plan. The idea is to gather leaders from all over Sarasota county and find ways to keep kids engaged, busy and away from drugs and violence.  It will also help to get kids access to county and community resources whenever necessary.
“We still know that youth are slipping through the cracks and we can’t afford that as a community," McCarthy said. 
 Luck said she has remained clean for the past 18 months and works with kids and community groups to fight addiction. She also continues to arm her daughter with information she needs to stay safe.
"She's bringing hope," Luck said. "She sees where bad decisions can get you."
Luck says by working together, parents and the Sarasota community can help protect kids from becoming addicted.