Joliet teen keynote speaker at annual substance abuse rally
By Denise M. Baran-Unland For The Herald-News September 5, 2012 1:04PM
Devin Johnson, a Joliet Central High School junior, made a conscious decision to avoid drugs and alcohol and will speak about the importance of substance abuse prevention programs at this year's Rally Round Recovery. | submitted photo
If you go
What: Annual Rally ‘Round Recovery
When: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, 201 W. Jefferson St., Joliet
What: More than 30 local agencies will provide attendees with information about available services in the community. Also, guest speakers, state and local officials, music and other entertainment.
Cost: Free (admission, food and soft drinks and raffle gifts, while supplies last)
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:23AM
JOLIET — In light of recent heroin deaths, it’s imperative to keep the prevention and treatment of substance abuse disorders in the limelight, said Robert Snipes, president of Southwest Coalition for Substance Abuse Issues.
For the last eight years, Rally ‘Round Recovery, presented by the Southwest Coalition for Substance Abuse Issues, has focused on treatment. This year, on Saturday, with Joliet Central High School junior Devin Johnson as its keynote speaker, the event will emphasize prevention.
“Anyone that we can keep from even trying drugs is one less that we might have to treat later,” Snipes said. “We have to teach our children the truth about drugs so that they will understand the real dangers, the small print and disclaimers that manufacturers hope you don’t pay attention to, as the illegal drugs that they see people taking without apparent consequence.”
Johnson plans to become an attorney. He carries a 3.0 grade point average, earned the title of “outstanding” attorney at one mock trial event, sits on the student council and participates in school activities.
Most importantly, Johnson, who was raised by a single mother, made a conscious decision never to use drugs and alcohol, and not because he’s lived a Disney-perfect life. No, if he wanted a reason to use, he could find one.
Johnson has struggled through the death of his grandmother, joblessness, a stay at MorningStar Mission and a November car accident that totaled his car. Instead of finding false strength in drugs and alcohol, he relies on his mother’s encouragement and a firm trust in God.
‘A living example’
Cherry Powell, prevention coordinator Chestnut Health Systems Inc., an organization that offers community-based education and training programs, recommended Johnson to speak about drug prevention.
His decision not to use, Powell said, has positively impacted his life..
“Devin is a living example of someone who has made the right choice and is enthusiastic about sharing his ideas,” Powell said. “He is one of many young people who are striving to do the right thing, and the coalition wanted to shine a light on the positive things that can happen in the lives of young people who refuse to abuse drugs.”
Mostly, said Paul Lauridsen, clinical director at Stepping Stones, Rally ‘Round Recovery is designed to reduce the stigma associated with addition to substance abuse since it often prevents people from seeking help.
Approximately 10 percent of the population, he added, has a substance abuse disorder. The community needs to recognize these disorders for what they are, a health condition as valid as hypertension or diabetes.
“Addiction to substances is not a crime and it is not something to be ashamed of,” Lauridsen said. “This event calls attention to the positive impact prevention and treatment services provide in individuals’ lives.”
The Southwest Coalition for Substance Abuse Issues, which presents Rally ‘Round Recovery, is comprised of substance abuse treatment and prevention providers — such as Stepping Stones Treatment and Recovery Center in Joliet — as well as other community organizations. For more information visit www.southwestcoalition.org.