Coalitions in Action – Drug Free Lee gets Community Support for Drug House Odyssey Program

“The Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida (Drug Free Lee) serves Lee County, FL, which has a population of 618,754,” said the coalition’s Executive Director Deb Comella. “Lee County has a large population of “Snow Birds” who reside in the county during the winter months. Lee County is also a popular spring break destination.”

“Underage drinking continues to be a major issue in Lee County,” said Comella. “And while the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey shows underage drinking is trending down, it continues to be a concern. Vaping is a trend of great concern, especially with data showing that teens and young adults who vape are much more susceptible to the Coronavirus. Emerging trends in Lee County are marijuana and methamphetamine, with prevention efforts also focused on opiate/heroin/fentanyl prevention, especially with young adults. Poly-medication use is a concern with the older adults in our community, particularly the use of alcohol with prescription medication.”

 

“For 26 years, Drug House Odyssey – A Lee County Prevention Event has illustrated the deadly effects of underage drinking and drinking and driving,” said Comella. “Our 2020 event was held on February 4-6. This six-scene, 40-minute play takes the visitor through scenarios that include a party scene, a field sobriety test, the courtroom, a car crash and an emergency room. Because of the dedication of our Lee County heroes, Drug House Odyssey is fortunate to have the scenes staffed by the actual community first responders who work each day on behalf of our citizens, so visitors will see representatives from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Cape Coral Police Department, Lee County Emergency Medical Services, Lee Health, the Bayshore Fire Department and the North Fort Myers Fire Department. Local high schools provide actors for the party scene, and this year we were privileged to have talent from Cape Coral High School, Mariner High School and Fort Myers High School, and we are always grateful to the theater teachers who rehearse the students and make their participation possible.  The Lee County Civic Center donates the space for the event, and provides assistance as needed each of the three days of the event.”  

 

“Drug House Odyssey is attended during the day by fifth grade classes who reserve spots, and Family Night, Wednesday night, is open to the public,” said Comella. “For the past two years, NFL Carolina Panther Tre Boston has attended the event and talks to each group about the importance of making good choices, and this year, he was joined by Kelsey Craft, Miss Florida for America. Drug House Odyssey utilizes many volunteers, including the Lee County Sheriff’s Office VOICE Volunteers, volunteers from the Cape Coral High School Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club, Coalition Board of Directors and Advisory Council members and community volunteers.”

 

“Drug House Odyssey is sponsored by the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties,” said Comella. “Last year, the United Way sponsored a Drug House Odyssey video, which can be accessed at drugfreeswfl.org. This video has been shared with Lee County families as our schools are closed and students are learning at home.”

 

“Drug House Odyssey was founded by the coalition and a group of community volunteers in 1994,” said Comella, “and while the venue has changed, the content remains the same. Outcomes are measured by attendance, onsite interviews and a survey e-mailed to participating teachers following the event. As the goal of the event is to spark discussion about making good choices, teachers are surveyed about conversation on the bus on the way back to school and follow up discussions and events. Teachers are provided with talking points and prevention information prior to the trip to make Drug House Odyssey part of a continuing discussion.”