Recovery center works to combat teen drug abuse in Ramona

Center offers drug testing for teens

By Karen Brainard

As law enforcement battles drug use and trafficking in the community, a nonprofit in Ramona is doing what it can do to combat teen substance abuse and is offering free initial drug testing for 12- to 17-year-olds.

McAlister’s North Rural Teen Recovery Center in Ramona offers free initial drug testing and help for teenagers using controlled substances. From left, psychologist Amanda Cohn, program manager Alex Serna, and treatment counselor Heather Dixon stand in a room where small groups of teens meet in the outpatient program. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

McAlister Institute’s North Rural Teen Recovery Center at 323 Hunter St. has a 10-panel drug test that will screen for such substances as cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, THC (found in marijuana) and opiates, which include heroin.

Parents can walk in with their child or make an appointment, as the test is performed at the center and monitored by staff. It gives an instant positive or negative reading and can be sent to a lab for details, such as the levels of drugs found in the teen’s system.

“The lab is so accurate,” said Alex Serna, program manager at the teen recovery center

The center is open from 10:30 a.m to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and next month will be open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parents should bring in their child as soon as they suspect he or she is using drugs, said Serna, adding that, if it is on a weekend, come in on Monday as levels could still be in their system.

Signs to watch for are grades slipping, money disappearing, sleeping more, different groups of friends and lashing out in anger.

“If you don’t know, it’s hard to catch,” said Serna, who recommends keeping an eye on prescription drugs in the house, noting they have been abused by teens. The initial drug test is free. Subsequent tests are $25.

If a teen tests positive, the parent will be informed and can have the teen assessed at the center, Serna said.

The Ramona center offers an outpatient teen recovery program from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays with frequency of attendance determined by the teen’s exposure to drugs. The fee for the program is on a sliding scale based on income, and McAlister accepts Medi-Cal.

“McAlister does not refuse anyone because of money,” said Serna.

The afternoon sessions include educational topics that focus on alcohol and drugs and life activities such as decision-making. Process groups allow teens to discuss what is going on in their lives and what is bothering them.

Describing the atmosphere as safe and positive, Serna and treatment counselor Heather Dixon noted that teens who would not normally get together talk with each other in the process groups.

“It’s really a time to leave the labels and masks behind” explained Dixon.

Random drug testing is provided, a psychologist performs mental assessments, life enhancement activities teach how to have fun without using drugs or alcohol, and parents are encouraged to attend the family sessions. Serna said a teen’s recovery rate increases about 50 percent with family support.

According to Dixon, they see teens from all economic levels. She described their clients as good kids who have dreams just like anyone else.

“They just slipped,” she said. “They just took a wrong turn and they don’t know how to get back. They need support and they need guidance.”

Among observations that the counselors noted: crystal meth is making a comeback as a drug of choice, and many teens believe marijuana is legal in the state because of the availability of medical marijuana.

For more information about the teen recovery center or its free initial drug test, call 760-788-6520.

Related posts:

  1. School, sheriff stage ‘must-see’ Drug Abuse Prevention Night
  2. Residents focus on drug-related crimes at sheriff’s meeting
  3. Prescription drug abuse contributing to rise in heroin use in San Diego County, study shows
  4. Teen center organizes park cleanup
  5. 18-year-old pleads guilty in drug sting at Ramona High

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Sep 25 2013. Filed under Featured Story, Local Spotlight, News, Ramona. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Comments for “Recovery center works to combat teen drug abuse in Ramona”

  1. Guest

    Instead of trying to increase property taxes, which most Ramona residents cannot afford to have done to them, let the next bond measure get its money from increased taxes on cigarettes, beer ,& winery sales. Not sure if its possible, but I'd also implement a local tax on soda sales. Call it a sin tax if you want, but at least it would do some good for the local community.

    • Jane Tanaka MD

      How about the quarter million dollars in cash confiscated during the recent Ramona drug busts being donated to the school district for additional security, drug prevention, vandalism prevention?

  2. A great resource for Ramona

    I can’t post a real name; my child attends Mcallister. But I will say that the program they provide is invaluable to our community. The drug screening is invaluable as a full spectrum pee test from CVS costs $50 and can’t tell you the levels of drugs your child is using. It’s not just weed, either. Cough syrup, NyQuil; ADHD drugs; pain killers – things found in your own medicine cabinet – are also popular.

    The warning signs are accurate, too, but I would also recommend looking at their FB and Instagram accounts. Who they hang with is a strong correlation to who they are themselves. Check their text messages too; know your child’s password to their phone and look at it. If they won’t give it to you, wait until they fall asleep ;)

    We’re all in this together, and the changing scene in regards to legalization of weed makes it tougher. But it doesn’t mean they can’t comply. Alcohol is illegal for minors until they’re 21; why is weed consumption different in their eyes (or yours).

    Otherwise, the penalties are stiff. You’ll lose a child to drugs; to theft and stealing; to juvenile incarceration; and then ultimately to personal financial liability. Be aware.

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