Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Elks Lodge Helps with Drug Abuse

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Elks Lodge Helps with Drug Abuse

Article excerpt

Wilkins Township Elks Lodge 577 is teaming up with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in a new initiative to help towns deal with heroin and prescription drug abuse and its associated crimes.

The program, called DEA 360, was formally announced last month in Pittsburgh and is working with community organizations, such as the Elks. The DEA is also sponsoring the program in St. Louis, Milwaukee and Memphis.

"We can no longer arrest our way out of this," Debbie Raible, a member of Wilkins Elks Lodge 577 and state chairwoman for DEA 360, said of the drug abuse problem. She said the lodge has been partnered with the DEA for many years, but this is the first year for DEA 360.

"They wanted to work with local communities," Ms. Raible said, adding that the Elks is one of the largest community organizations in the country. The Wilkins Lodge alone has more than 500 members.

"They refer to us as the boots on the ground," she said of the Elks role in the initiative.

The DEA has allocated about $600,000 for the program in the Pittsburgh region.

The DEA 360 strategy has three parts: law enforcement, in which the DEA targets all levels of drug trafficking organizations that supply drugs to local neighborhoods; diversion control, which engages drug manufacturers, wholesalers, practitioners and pharmacists to increase awareness of opioid abuse and encourages responsible prescribing of opioids; and community outreach, which uses organizations such as the Elks to empower communities to fight opioid abuse.

One way the Elks hopes to help curb drugs in the community is by going into local schools to educate children on the dangers of using drugs. Currently, the Elks holds contests such as designing pictures for its drug awareness coloring books, but Ms. Raible hopes the Elks can organize after-school programs in the near future.

The "critical hours" when children are vulnerable to being exposed to dangers such as drugs are after school, between 3 and 7 p. …

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