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Teens step up to stop the dying, Vicksburg, MS
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Posted: Sep 16 2007, 12:35 PM

HO HO HO's ;)

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Eighteen-year-old Bobby Hilbun was "a good kid who made bad choices," his parents say.

At 14, he had been the starting football quarterback for three years. College scouts were already looking at him.

A "natural athlete," Bobby also played soccer and baseball and ran track.

"He was an exceptional athlete. He excelled in every sport he played," said his father, Tim Hilbun.

But, one day, it all fell apart. Today he's dead.

"He messed up in school and, in ninth grade, he dropped out," said his mother, Vickie Free. "He regretted dropping out of school. He loved football. When everything failed -- everything went wrong -- it was like a domino effect. He regretted the decisions he made. It was an inner-struggle. He was trying to recover what he couldn't get back."

Bobby died July 15, the third of three teenagers in two weeks to succumb to drugs or drugs and alcohol. Lambert Culley, 19, died June 28 in Claiborne County. Drew Keith, 16, died July 8 in Sharkey County.

Now, teens -- some knew them, and some didn't -- are standing up to fight, to stop the dying.

"When the three young men died, the teens said, 'OK, we need to do something," said Patty Mekus, program director for Drug-Free Communities. "The goal is to get the word out and start the education process. They felt a sense of urgency."

Seventeen-year-old Amanda McDaniel, a member of the What Up Wit Dat? Teen Coalition for a Drug Free Warren County, knew one of the boys, and said having someone her age die from alcohol and drugs was an eye-opening experience.

"It opens you up in a way. You know who wants to drink and smoke weed, which hurts the people around them," she said. "It makes you want to get them right."

Bobby's toxicology report showed that he had taken a mixture of OxyContin, Methadone and Xanex, all prescription drugs, said Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey. No alcohol was in his system at the time of his death, which was ruled to be an "accidental overdose," Huskey said.

"Everybody thinks it's crystal (methamphetamine), crack (cocaine) or marijuana that these kids are doing, but this is stuff that's coming out of their parents' medicine cabinets," said Free, Bobby's mother.

Finley Akers is president of the teen coalition and a senior at Warren Central High School.

She said peer pressure to use drugs and drink alcohol is prevalent in high school, but that standing up against it is becoming a trend.

"It's really difficult to be a teen. It's tough to stick up for what you believe in," she said. "But, it's so fulfilling to reach someone. It is hard, but the benefits definitely outweigh it."

Whether they're filming monthly television spots or public service announcements, penning letters to local and state leaders, the teens who make up What Up Wit Dat?, have a message they want heard loud and clear.

Akers is Miss Outstanding Teen Vicksburg 2007. In that position, preventing drug and alcohol use in teens is her platform, and she believes education of teens and adults is the coalition's main mission.

"We really want to reach the whole community and get the usage down," she said.

The case of Bobby's death has been closed by authorities, Sgt. Tom Wilson of the Vicksburg Police Department said. But it's also the opening of an attempt to find the source of the drugs.

"The police department is actually now investigating the distribution of pills and other substances throughout Warren County that are getting to these teenagers," he said. "We believe his death is a rally cry or wake-up call to alert parents and young kids that maybe even those who have their whole life ahead of them -- life can stop in a moment."

Wilson said he believes teenagers are taking pills from parents or friends with leftover medication from legitimate prescriptions. In some cases, the pills are brought in from other states or even other countries.

"We even have reports that older adults are selling pills to teenagers," he said.

Tim Hilbun said he'd like to see all dealers "run out of town." And, he said, more parent education is needed.

"Parents need to be aware of what the drugs do," he said.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites "unacceptably high levels" in misuse of prescription drugs in 2006. According to a survey, 9 percent of 2006 survey respondents said they used prescription narcotic drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin in the past year, and 4 to 7 percent of 8th- to 12th-graders said they had used over-the-counter cold medicines -- usually containing dextromethorphan -- to get high.

Free said early intervention is key to keeping teens off drugs.

"Campaign for it. Don't hold back -- no holds barred," she said.

Because of the boys' deaths, Mekus said, the coalition has changed its focus from illegal drugs to prescription pills.

"Our goal is to get the word out and start educating," she said.

In 2005, The Behavioral Health Foundation of Central Mississippi received a $100,000 Drug-Free Communities matching grant for the Make A Promise Coalition. It was one of 176 new grants totaling $17.1 million across the country. The local grant is one of two awarded in Mississippi. The foundation has been notified it will be funded again this year.

To join the coalition, teens -- ninth through 12th grade -- must commit to being drug, alcohol and tobacco free, Mekus said.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said the peer-led effort has made a difference in awareness.

"Something unique about this group is the teen involvement," he said. "You have these bright, intelligent young people who, not only know and understand the dangers of this stuff, but they're able to relay the information to their peers."

The group meets once a month to talk about issues and plan activities. Their most recent effort is to be an active part of a statewide mission to close the consumption loophole in Mississippi laws that allow those younger than 21 to consume alcohol privately with permission from their parents or guardians. Hence, the teens have written to elected officials and community leaders.

State Rep. Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, was in Vicksburg Thursday, sharing his firsthand account of drinking and driving with the adult coalition. He said a bill is being drafted to address the loophole. It will go to the Legislature in January.

In 1988, Gunn, then 25, lost his entire immediate family -- his 46-year-old parents and his 20-year-old sister -- when a drunken driver's vehicle rear-ended theirs. Their rear gas tank burst open and a spark led to an explosion. Gunn's family inhaled the hot fumes and suffocated to death.

"This was my whole family," he said. "One shot and my entire family was wiped off the face of the earth. That happened because one guy made a decision to drink and drive. He changed not only his life, but mine, my mother's and father's -- and my sister's," he said.

The drunken driver, convicted of vehicular manslaughter, is serving a 60-year term.

Gunn often tells his story to teens, attempting to show them what bad choices can bring.

"I challenge teens to take out a photo of their families and look at it," he said. "I tell them, 'Thank God every day that you've got a family.' If you drink and drive and use drugs, you can't control your body."

The teen coalition has focused a portion of its efforts on drinking and driving to raise awareness among teens. In a separate effort, the group started a needs drive to help the children at the Warren County Children's Shelter. Speaking out against drugs and alcohol, however, remains at the fore of their efforts. On Aug. 18, the group spoke at Rock the River at First Baptist Church, where 250 teens gathered to hear coalition member talk about the deaths of the three teenagers, Akers said.

The adult coalitions are community leaders, parents, teachers, religious and fraternal organizations, health care and business professionals, law enforcement and the media.

While adult involvement is key, Pace said, the teen involvement helps carry the weight of the message that might not get across to a teen as easily if it's told by a parent, teacher or police officer.

"My personal philosophy is that we're peace officers first. Law enforcement has a role and an important role," Pace said. "The coalition is unique and important because it addresses -- very aggressively -- education. They make an effort to prevent the crime from ever occurring."

Free said she hopes Bobby's death will keep other teenagers from making bad decisions.

"For one of them, it's got to be a wake-up call," she said. "It's got to be."

Another group of teenagers, led by Dean Anderson, plans to use victims' stories to influence other teens to make smart decisions. Mother's Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, plans to start a Victim's Impact Program, to show the repercussions of making the wrong choices. The program will require people convicted of driving under the influence to hear the stories of victims, Mekus said. Anderson also leads MADD's Youth in Action, a group that began a year ago to bring programs and information about underage drinking and making responsible choices to students in schools and communities here in Warren County.

"You have to be out there. People have to know what you're doing," Anderson said. "When you're educating children and adults, you have to fight them head-on."

Vicksburg paramedic Lee Williams, who has been with the Vicksburg Fire Department for 13 years, has seen firsthand what happens to teenagers who think they're "invincible."

"The problem is -- they don't understand the effects. They don't believe you," he said. "It doesn't set in until somebody gets hurt. It's sad that's what it takes."

One of Williams' many tragic stories came when he responded to a head-on collision in which a woman and her infant were killed by a drunken teen driver. In the truck with the driver were 10 other teens. Williams said, in addition, several other passengers were injured.

"When he did it, (the driver) didn't care," he said. "He didn't realize it until it was too late."

While the fight to keep underage drinking and drug abuse at a minimum might seem like a lost cause, Williams said education, intervention and awareness are needed.

"Nothing's changed over the years -- kids drink," he said. "They're going to always do it. But the problem is they don't understand the effects of drinking and driving. We see it all the time. They don't see it until somebody gets hurt."

Mekus said education is the biggest part of Drug-Free Communities.

"I don't think we'll ever be 100 percent drug free, but we can decrease usage, and that's the goal," she said.

Growing old is mandatory... growing up is optional. ;)

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Posted: Sep 16 2007, 05:06 PM

Urine Shaman/Anal Sex Advocate

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I love how they misspell Xanax among other language errors.

<lucid|ril|aniracetam> " identify your personal god to help you master your horrible disease, junkie "

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Posted: Sep 16 2007, 10:00 PM

I was Mike

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I laughed at how they said he ODed on methadone among other things, and they say that people get it out of their parents medicine cabinet.

Seriously who's parents get methadone? I thought it was only for heroin (and other opiate/oid) addicts


Everything is relevant.

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Posted: Sep 16 2007, 10:20 PM


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"It's tough to stick up for what you believe in," she said.

This is so true. Especially when closed-minded bigots like yourself go around persecuting everybody who thinks differently then you do.

"But, it's so fulfilling to reach someone. It is hard, but the benefits definitely outweigh it."

Yes, but you, little lady, are not about to listen to sense, so that fulfillment you mention will have to be denied me.

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." ~ Friedrich Neitzsche

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Posted: Sep 17 2007, 05:05 PM

Plateau Sigma

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I hate that they died in the car crash You shouldn't be driving a car that explodes when it's hit from the back....That reminds me of the pinto story. Where all the pintos were recalled cause they exploded when rear ended. Very unsafe car to be driving. Oh and What kind of parents do they have who have methadone, xanax, AND oxycontin in their cabinets. Holy shit. They got some fucked up parents.

Be at peace with your mind for in the end it is all you will have
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.

Matter is NOT made up of matter.
God will send you to a place of fire and pain if you don't agree with him....but he LOVES YOU!!!
All powerful, all knowing, but he can't handle money, either!!

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Posted: Sep 17 2007, 06:22 PM

Third Plateau

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i donno a dude i know who broke his back gets methadone they tell him to eat a quarter of a tab.

-------------------- - my youtube, funny shit.
M U S I C.' / '.. ;S O U N D S ' . ; .',B E T T E R '. ; ,.W I T H '.
' . ; ' . ' . ', ; .; . , ; . ; , .;;; ' ' ' ... ; ' ' .' . ' . ..' .''
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Posted: Sep 17 2007, 06:49 PM

I was 'Peace Frog'

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"It opens you up in a way. You know who wants to drink and smoke weed , which hurts the people around them," ...

Next paragraph:
  ...No alcohol was in his system at the time of his death...
It dosent mention any evidence of him smoking weed at the time, either

"Everybody thinks it's crystal (methamphetamine), crack (cocaine) or marijuana that these kids are doing, but this is stuff that's coming out of their parents' medicine cabinets,"
Yeah, when teens die from drug overdoses, I always assume the drug in question is weed, not something harmless like benzos or opiates

I stopped reading after that paragraph, which I imagine is farther than the editors got.

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Posted: Sep 28 2007, 03:07 PM


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HAHA Methadone in the medicine cabinet? They shouldn't be living at home if theres thta because theyve got a drug addict parent.

Xanax? I don't know to many parents with that in there medicine cabinet.

Smae with Oxycontin I don't know to many parents with that unless there hurt.

Everybiody thinks it's Ice, crack or marijuana these kids are doing. What's wrong with Marijuana?

AND for EVERY SINGLE drug/med that will get a human being high they will be used to get fucking high it's really SO simple a newborn can catch the drift.

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