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Executive director leaves post at Coalition for Drug-Free SW Fla.

By Staff | Oct 9, 2009

Keral Kronseder-Vogt, executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, said a tearful goodbye Thursday to the position she has held for 10 years.
Originally founded by Lee Memorial Health System President Jim Nathan, the coalition’s work at the community level has decreased the number of children turning to drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
In her tenure as executive director, Kronseder-Vogt instituted Alcohol Free Youth, the annual Drug House Odyssey and Red Ribbon Youth Week.
Cape Coral City Councilmember Derrick Donnell read a proclamation from the city honoring her work and declared Oct. 8 as Keral Kronseder-Vogt Day.
“As a result of Keral’s efforts, more children will lead a drug free life,” he said.
From 2000-08, cigarette use among teens dropped from 21 percent to 11.2 percent, and marijuana use decreased from 15.6 percent to 11.1 percent. The use of hard drugs, steroids and other club drugs have dropped to less than 1 percent.
The coalition hosts a number of large anti-drug programs in Lee County.
Each year 3,000 families tour the Drug House Odyssey in Cape Coral, an interactive tour that shows the effects of drugs, and 16,000 children are honored for the Red Ribbon Community Celebration.
The coalition also created the Florida Addictions Institute, the only school in the state that trains counselors for substance abuse treatment.
Kronseder-Vogt’s last day was Thursday. She has accepted a position with the Alpha House in Tampa Bay, a residential program for homeless mothers and their children.
“It trains them to be empowered women,” Kronseder-Vogt said. “It’s a wonderful organization.”
It not only provides women with a place to live, but treats them for substance abuse problems and provides education, counseling and job placement.
“I am looking forward to leading that organization, but it breaks my heart to leave this one,” she said.
Deborah Comella, director of public awareness for the coalition, will serve as interim executive director until the position is filled.
“This area is so proactive, they got the picture and know our kids and families need help,” said Kronseder-Vogt.
The coalition hosts a national Conference on Addictive Disorders in various places throughout the state. This year it is at the Buena Vista Palace Resort and Spa in Orlando.
Also, the Florida Addictions Institute is going online starting Jan. 1 to allow students from across the United States to register for classes.
“This area should be so proud they have these two things,” Kronseder-Vogt said.
The Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida is located on Pine Island Road.