Your Health — Drug education, awareness key for parents | CraigDailyPress.com

Your Health — Drug education, awareness key for parents

Keeping children free of illicit substances begins with parents knowing just how seriously their little ones can be affected by these items at all ages.

A pair of seminars hosted by Connections 4 Kids this week at the Clarion Inn & Suites saw a turnout of nearly 100 people overall and provided information about the kinds of hazards drugs can cause families physically and mentally. Connections 4 Kids joined with Moffat County Sheriff's Office, Moffat County Social Services, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA to bring members of Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children to discuss the topic.

Jade Woodard, executive director for the organization, focused especially on how parental drug use can impact a child in utero. The primary message of the presentation — "there is no safe drug during pregnancy."

Alcohol, cigarette smoke, cocaine, opiates and any number of other substances can have an impact on prenatal health, Woodard said. And, it's not always apparent upon birth if a baby has been harmed by a parent's usage.

Significant birth defects are not always common, but dependency on powerful substances can follow the children after they leave the womb.

Kelly Martin-Puleo, director of Colorado Northwestern Community College's nursing program, attended Thursday with a handful of students. She noted that the high amount of unplanned pregnancies in Moffat County — 43 percent of pregnancies in the area in 2012, according to Charity Neal, public health director for Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association — may be tied with "risky behaviors" that can harm their newborns.

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"Sometimes moms don't know they're pregnant for six or eight weeks and they've used in that first trimester and they feel guilty and shameful about that," she said. "Nobody wants to endanger their child."

Further stigmatizing women in this position isn't the answer, Martin-Puleo said, a sentiment echoed by Betsy Overton, coordinator for Connections 4 Kids.

"We need a lot of parent education, teacher education and that's what we've been doing here," she said.

The education process included addressing issues that are specific to the state and the region. Within Northwest Colorado, services for drug addiction are limited, which makes it more difficult for parents to change their lifestyle.

Likewise, Colorado's legalization of marijuana and the packaging rules that have come with it have been under scrutiny because of edible pot products that could easily fall into children's hands, an example of the need for parental awareness, Woodard said.

"I think all parents need to know that they need to keep everything locked up," she said. "Whether it's alcohol or marijuana or prescription drugs, it needs to be not accessible to kids."

Woodard added that whatever experiences a parent may be having, any effort to not expose a child to it will help, even if it's as simple as finding a reliable babysitter if a parent knows they'll be drinking.

"Every child deserves a sober care-giver," Woodard said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.