Lyon County Sheriff Allen Veil thinks fighting drug and alcohol abuse and gang activity among youth takes a team effort, so he has put together a team, a team leader, and a new strategy.
"What this is trying is a different approach," he said. "We need to have a whole new approach other than just being responsive. We need to reach the kids, reach the parents and see what we can do together."
The team is a new partnership among the Sheriff's Office, the Healthy Communities Coalition in Lyon and Storey Counties, the county Human Services Department and the Lyon County School District and Lyon County youth themselves.
The team leader is Sgt. Paul VanDiver, whom Veil appointed to the new federally funded deputy position of community and school resource deputy, so he can work directly in the schools and assist the other partners with programs designed to raise community awareness about drug and alcohol abuse and gang affiliations among youth.
VanDiver said he will spend about 20 hours a week in the schools, primarily in Dayton at first, and the rest of his time mapping strategies within the schools in Dayton, Silver Springs and Fernley; later the program will include Yerington and Smith Valley.
"Dayton is the testing ground," Veil said. "Trying to hit five or six communities with one deputy is tough."
Those strategies will involve getting the word out to the communities about the extent of drug and alcohol abuse, and gang activity among youth.
The first effort is to place warnings about prescription drug abuse on prescription bags, so parents filling the prescriptions realize meth isn't the only thing they have to worry about.
"It's one of our biggest problems in the schools right now," he said. "Kids get them from parents, friends, grandparents. There's a lot of Vicodin and Oxycontin around."
VanDiver will also oversee the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws program, which includes alcohol compliance checks, third-party consent stings and alcohol server training for Lyon County businesses.
The sheriff's office has also installed a new hot line that can be used by residents to report crimes, drug or gang activity or suspicious goings-on. The hot line number is 1 (866) 481-3446.
Christy McGill, executive director of Healthy Communities Coalition, said providing parents with information is essential, especially when some parents allow their kids to drink alcohol. She said alcohol is a big problem among youth.
"That is a problem we are hoping targeting parents will help," she said. "We will show that most parents don't give kids alcohol, that it is not the norm for our community."
She said during a recent Healthy Communities Coalition survey, many residents had a negative view of youth, a view she said was inaccurate for the majority of young people.
"We tell them what kids really do, through media campaigns, pamphlets, things like that," she said. "Most kids are not drinking or using drugs. So when parents catch kids drinking, they shouldn't think that this is something all kids do, because they don't."
She said the prescription bag warnings, flyers and public meetings will help inform parents, and kids themselves will help educate other kids.
"We have a prevention team of high school kids teaching middle school kids, and middle school kids that teach elementary school kids," she said. "We really believe the most effective message comes from kids to kids."
Eventually, Veil would like to see a school resource officer in every community. He envisioned working with the school district and other county departments to fund the positions and coordinate activities.
McGill said the program the partnership is using is modeled on programs in Douglas County and Carson City, where she said headway has been made against underage drinking in particular.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.
Lyon County's new hot line for reporting crime, drug or gang activity:
1 (866) 481-3446