For 25 years, the Thurston County nonprofit organization Together has worked with schools and community organizations to promote positive youth development and give parents the resources they need to help their children succeed.
Together also sponsors free after-school programs such as the one at Chambers Prairie Elementary School in Lacey. The program allows elementary-age schoolchildren to get homework assistance and supervision twice a week from 3-5 p.m.
Chambers Elementary student Megan Kokaram, 10, went over a homework assignment with a Together volunteer at the after-school program Wednesday. Kokaram said the Together-sponsored program is “pretty fun,” and she likes the free snacks.
Together’s Executive Director Meghan Sullivan said a big part of the group’s work this year has been to develop programs and collaborations to combat the growing problem of substance abuse among young people in Thurston County.
Thurston County chemical dependency program manager Joe Avalos said Together’s work implementing a “community prevention wellness initiative” in Rainier and Tenino has helped bring offerings such as parenting classes and after-school programs to youth there.
On April 30, Together will host a conference titled “Substance Abuse: A Community Response,” at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, featuring a keynote speech by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Together’s conference will include topics such as the consequences of both I-502, the initiative that legalized marijuana in Washington, and I-1138, the initiative that ended state-run liquor stores in Washington. Other conference sessions will explore the heroin epidemic in Thurston County, and how the abuse of prescription painkillers often leads to harder drugs, including heroin.
During the past several years, local officials have pointed to a growing heroin problem throughout the county — including a marked increase in discarded needles and narcotics trafficking in downtown Olympia. Sullivan said teens are not immune when it comes to Thurston County’s heroin problem. She pointed to a 2012 survey of Thurston County high schoolers that showed 4.7 percent of all students had tried heroin by the time they were in the 10th grade.
Representatives from Together meet monthly with the Thurston County Drug Action Team to develop a communitywide response to the use of illegal narcotics. The drug action team also includes officials from local law enforcement agencies, the prosecutor’s office and county public health officials.
For conference registration information and a full agenda, go to thurstontogether.org/ events.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360754-5445 email@example.com