Community of Committee Members

In Westmorland County, a massive committee composed of parents of overdose victims, commissioners, advocates, recovering addicts, healthcare professionals, law enforcement, principals, superintendents, counselors, mental health professionals, and concerned citizens, hope to try to do something about the overdose and drug problem going on right now in Latrobe. I was reluctant to giving my opinions. Why would a bunch of adults (some people I never in my wildest dreams imagined sitting on a council with) listen to what a 17 year old has to say? On Wednesday, November 6, I was proven wrong.

When I first arrived, I was nervous. I didn’t feel like I should have been there. Little did I know, I was the youngest to attend.To my surprise everyone turned out to be curious and pleasant as I spoke. Everyone was shocked to see someone so young interested in this side of our society. Many were even taken back that I was only 17. I wasn’t treated as a child. They really listened to me and cared as to what I had to say.

We were reminded that even though we were all different, we mattered. Our voice and opinions had something no one else did. We were experts in our “field.” I was terrified to voice my own thoughts, but I got over my nerves and started an ongoing topic. My opinion got voiced through our chair, Tay Waltenbaugh. It was chosen for one of the final thoughts to be acted on.

Many things were discussed that day. From halfway houses in Westmorland County, to peer to peer counseling, just to name a few. It was stated that people are in denial of drugs being in our own backyard. One of the counselors had said that weed was a bad thing, and just because it was “safe” for a young person to take part in it, it affected more than them. Their family and friends would be soon affected by it. She also said that in 7/10 times it can lead to heavier things such as heroin or prescription and substance abuse. I proposed that we need more raw programs in schools to make things more forceful to get drug education into young peoples’ lives.

Other things discussed was the Oxford House, kid care for outpatients getting help for addiction, and parents who host and buy alcohol for their kid’s parties. My mother, Beth Straka (Latrobe P.D. C.S.O) had commented, “It’s funny that many people who are uneducated on subjects concerning drugs and addicts, but don’t go to council meetings or meetings like the ones we are seated at today, are the ones creating problems for those getting help at the Oxford House.” It was interesting and intellectually refreshing to hear other’s opinions on these matters. I felt proud and actually happy after leaving this committee. I felt like I had brought an insight they hadn’t had yet. Anybody can participate in these meetings. The committee would love for more young people to attend. A word of advice from me to you: Don’t be afraid, be the difference in the community.