Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida to hold annual Drug House Odyssey
Hundreds of Lee County fifth-graders will learn the negative consequences of drinking and driving next week during the 22nd annual Drug House Odyssey.
Organized by the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, the program will be held Tuesday through Thursday at Cape Christian Fellowship Church. A walk-through play that takes about 40 minutes, the story follows a group of teens as they make choices that result in different outcomes.
“There’s always been a concern about underage drinking in Lee County,” Deborah Comella, the executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, said.
She noted that studies have shown it remains a big problem among teenagers.
“The community came together to put together the Drug House Odyssey to show kids what the consequences might be if you drink and pick up the car keys,” Comella said.
Over the three days, 1,500 fifth-graders from 12 public and private schools will participate in the program. Studies have revealed that children ages 10 to 12 learn best from this type of tool.
“We’re kind of getting them where they live,” she said.
On Wednesday, the program is open to the public from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“We encourage families to come, especially the families of the kids who end up on the waiting list,” Comella said.
She explained that teachers are invited every year to reserve a spot for their class. In the last three years, however, there has been a waiting list due to the number of classrooms that want to take part.
“It’s a jumping off point for parents and teachers to talk to kids about drunk driving,” Comella said.
The play consists of six scenes and opens with a group of teens babysitting. When another group of teens shows up at the residence, each of the youths make a decision to drink or not drink alcohol.
The following scenes involve the teens being pulled over by a police officer and asked to do field sobriety tests, an automobile accident where victims are pulled from the wreckage, and the reactions of the families of the teens as they discuss what happened with medical staff in an emergency room.
“The scene that the kids talked about the most last year was the courtroom scene,” she said.
Comella explained that what makes the program realistic is the fact that the actors are not actors.
“We have the actual agencies participate,” she said.
Lee County EMS pull the “victims” out of the car crash, local law enforcement and school resource officers serve as tour guides and Lee Memorial Health System sets up an actual emergency room.
“Not only is there the message of prevention, but our kids gets to see the heroes of our community,” Comella said. “Around the country, a lot of people use actors for the whole thing.”
She encouraged families to come out Wednesday for Family Night.
“It’s a great discussion starter,” Comella said.
The program is free, and reservations are not required.
“Before and after, we do have prevention displays – real tools that parents can use to talk to their children,” she said.
The program also touches on prescription drug abuse.
“But it will always be about underage drinking and a drunk driving prevention event,” Comella said.
For more information on the Drug House Odyssey, visit the website of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida at: www.drugfreeswfl.org.