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Drug House Odyssey stresses prevention

By Staff | Mar 2, 2013

For two decades, the Drug House Odyssey has been teaching students and families about the danger of combining alcohol and drug use with driving.

“It’s a wonderful prevention event,” Deborah Comella, executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, said Friday.

“It brings together 35 organizations and agencies to present a very vivid program on the dangers of drinking and driving and underage drinking,” she said.

Drug House Odyssey is a walk-through play that last 45 minutes.

The story follows four high school students from a casual encounter with drinking and drug use, through the emergency room, arrest and courtroom.

“The program is about choices,” Comella said. “It follows the kids according to the choices that they make.”

Those who drink get arrested or end up getting in an traffic accident.

“We follow some extracted from a wreck,” she said, adding that some are even rushed to the hospital for treatment for their injuries.

“At the very end, they have a chaplain, and the chaplin talks about what happened to the kids that drank and what happened to the kids that didn’t drink,” Comella said.

What makes the event unique is who performs in the play.

“We use the actual professionals who are doing the job,” she said.

The cast includes doctors and nurses from Lee Memorial Health System, local police and firefighters, the State Attorney’s Office and others.

“We use more than 350 volunteers,” Comella said.

The event is Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A total of 2,100 fifth-graders from 18 schools, both public and private, will attend as a school field trip. It is only open to the general public Wednesday from 6- 8 p.m.

“We always have more students that want to attend than we have spaces, so we just have a lottery,” she said, adding that schools can apply in January.

“This year we only had one school on the waiting list,” Comella said.

The coalition has resources available for schools not selected to attend.

“We do have some prevention programs that will go to the school,” she said.

Approximately 350 people drop by for the public showing each year.

“We have Scout Troops that come year after year. We have families that come year after year,” Comella said.

There is no cost for admission to the public showing.

Visitors are urged to wear socks and shoes because of the terrain.

Drug House Odyssey is intended to serve as a jumping off point for families to talk about the issue of alcohol and drugs or help continue existing talks.

“This is the most effective when it is part of a family discussion,” she said.

Literature will be available to take home on underage drinking, drunk driving and other topics. Information on Internet safety will also be on hand this year.

“We spend a lot of time out in the community, and this is something we’ve found parents have an interest in,” Comella said.

“I think some of us don’t know as much about the Internet as we would hope, but our kids do,” she added.

The event is held at Cape Christian Fellowship, at 2110 Chiquita Blvd. S.

Those interested in volunteering to help with the Drug House Odyssey next year can visit the coalition’s Web site online at: www.drugfreeswfl.org.

“We’re always looking for input and help for our event,” Comella said.