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by Eileen Spatz
Living in San Clemente, as any of its 65,000 plus residents would tell you, is akin to living in paradise. Its breathtaking, postcard-like beauty and perfect climate offer a sparkling expanse of ocean on the west, and gently sloping hills carving out its east corridor. Yes, San Clemente has it all.
There is one thing, however, that its inhabitants do not consider an asset; a startling spike in drug addiction, alcohol abuse and suicide among its youth in recent years. And although San Clemente is not alone in experiencing soaring numbers of drug overdoses and deaths, an abundance of tragic loss to this scourge among its young people is becoming alarming.
Thankfully, one of the many benefits of living in a smaller city is an inherent sense of community. Because of this, a call to action by families and community leaders has culminated in the creation of Community Outreach Alliance (COA), a partnership among key figures in town who are committing time and resources to help battle this alarming rise of drug abuse, addiction and death in the area.
What COA Stands For
The underlying theme of the collaborative effort of COA is simple: Kids who are kept busy with wholesome activities that not only distract them from the temptation of drug and alcohol use, but also lead them to discover their personal passions and skills, can save lives.
Stoking passions - be they in art or music, the acquiring of a new skill, or discovering a new hobby - is very important during the developmental stage of adolescence. Through the alliance with Talega Life Church (TLC), COA offers free acoustic guitar lessons, art lessons, yoga, dance and music events, community outreach events, and even a gaming club to inspire teens and engage their souls. All of these programs are sponsored by local businesses in an effort to provide them free of charge, with only rare food or supply costs.
What teen or young adult wouldn’t benefit from participating in outdoor activities? Studies have shown that physical activity may actually prevent substance abuse by stimulating the brain’s reward pathways, heightening mood-boosting neurochemicals. Commonly, drug and alcohol use is associated with an accompanying mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. The fact that physical activity may help to elevate mood and relieve mild depression drives COA’s activity calendar, where fishing expeditions, hiking jaunts, tennis lessons and even yoga are offered.
The COA alliance now includes such prominent community members as Dr. Bill Sears, MD/author, Brad Baker, PhD and Vice Principal at San Clemente High School, Mark McElroy, PhD and Head Football Coach at Saddleback College, Don Muir, DMD, Community Activist, and many others. For a complete list of participants, please visit www.communityoutreachalliance.com
In addition, COA partners with Jodi Barber and Christine Brant, Executive Producers of the Overtaken documentary series and founders of One Choice Can Destroy. Their Overtaken series, which educates youth on the dangers of prescription pills and other illicit drugs, has been viewed by countless teens across the country as Barber and Brant work tirelessly to stem the rising tide of addiction and death nationally.
Living Life in Recovery is a local organization that also focuses on providing positive activities for people in recovery to help stave off relapse. The group assists those in recovery to find new hobbies and build community through shared experience, helping them construct a better life for themselves.
Our Community at Work
These two incredible community resources have teamed up to co-sponsor an important San Clemente event. A Night of Remembrance will be presented on August 29th at The Venue at 1050 Calle Negocio from 6-9:30pm. This dinner event will focus on creating awareness of the serious problem we face as a community with regard to drugs and alcohol, to remember the young souls we have lost to overdose and suicide deaths, and to stand in support of their grieving families.
Proceeds from this event will benefit outreach programs, such as the Wellness and Prevention Center at San Clemente High School. By providing mental health resources at school, the Wellness and Prevention Center encourages healthy coping mechanisms, giving the students useful tools via counseling to utilize when experiencing difficulties.
The goal of the Night of Remembrance event is to raise awareness and remove the stigma about addiction and mental health issues, so that healthy, open conversation can lead to more constructive action in battling this dangerous enemy. Donations are needed and greatly appreciated.b
COA is a 501c3 non-profit service that offers various resources for teens in crisis. To become part of this phenomenal effort to change lives, you may donate to COA at www.communityoutreachalliance.com
or sign up for volunteer opportunities. Please contact Teri Steel at firstname.lastname@example.org.