Training session teaches signs of drug-endangered kids

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MELANIE SMITH, coordinator for Community Strong Drug Endangered Children’s Project, speaks at a training session at Tribal Council Chambers in Pablo. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

By ASHLEY FOX

Lake County Leader

Fifty people from multiple professional backgrounds attended a training session last week where the focus was recognizing child danger.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Alliance for Drug Endangered Children held a three-hour training, bringing an opportunity to collaborate and have a uniform response to deal with situations arising from children in a drug environment.

Community Strong Drug Endangered Children’s Project organized the training, which took place on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at the Tribal Council Chambers in Pablo.

Eric Nation, director of training and development for National DEC, and Stacee Read, director of National DEC, led the training exercises in which local law enforcement, medical and educational professionals were among those in attendance.

Community Strong Coordinator Melanie Smith said that the turnout, which more than tripled from the last meeting several months ago, allowed input from Tribal Council, law enforcement and medical personnel.

“We were able to talk about how to get more disciplines involved,” Smith said, adding that mental health professionals are being sought.

Through the Community Strong program, members of the community from multiple disciplines are trained to recognize at-risk, drug-endangered children.

The program was formed in 2013 as a Tribal effort in which departments and various disciplines worked together to combat the substance abuse crisis, Smith explained.

National DEC is a national nonprofit whose mission is to break the cycle of multi-generational abuse and neglect.

Smith explained that Community Strong’s momentum slowed after staffing concerns, and the national program stepped in, offering training assistance to further help the county recognize what a drug-endangered child looks like.

The group defines drug-endangered children as those “at risk of suffering physical or emotional harm as a result of illegal drug use, possession, manufacturing, cultivation or distribution.”

Focusing on working together regardless of profession, Smith said that a goal of those involved is to devote energy to children, recognizing warning signs of drug abuse in the lives of children.

Working together, Smith explained that people throughout the community work to use their skills in their own field for the children along with what other professionals contribute to children safety.

Expertise ranging from extracting children from the dangerous situations to providing aftercare are discussed.

Smith said that by working together, each person learns what other disciplines contribute to a child’s safety.

“Anybody that can impact the life of a child, and we understand everyone is doing great work, but we know we can do more,” Smith said.

Tribe worked with Community Strong, and once momentum stalled when the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children entered the picture.

Giving Smith ideas, various departments, law enforcement and other community members are now offered the training, addressing facets that go along with children’s lives.

“Our children are our most precious and valuable asset,” Smith said.

The next Community Strong DEC Project meeting will be at 1 p.m., March 28, at Tribal Council Chambers, 42487 Complex Blvd., Pablo.

Those interested in attending are encouraged to attend, or can contact Smith at 675-2700 extension 6112 or melanie.smith@cskt.org.

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