New program in Livingston County aims to stop teenage drinking, drug use

Parents sign up for Safe Homes program

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. – Some parents in Livingston County are signing up for a new program to help keep teenagers away from alcohol and drugs.

Courtney Atasalakis, of Pinckney, signed up for the Safe Homes program because she has four children. She worries about one of them going to another person's home, drinking, then driving home. 

"It's a huge fear of mine," Atasalakis said. "I'm committing to not allowing drugs or alcohol at my house during any parties that they might have or get-togethers. I'm also committing that the alcohol is locked up and that the prescription drugs are also locked up."

Atasalakis' choice is very personal. She lost her sister, Amber, to drug addiction.

"She passed away Christmas Eve 2015 from a fentanyl overdose that was caused by her addiction to heroin, which was caused by an injury at work and she was prescribed prescription pills and then it led to a heroin addiction," Atasalakis said

Amber's daughter Justice Knickerbocker also supports the Safe Homes program.

"I think it's actually really needed because in high school there's a lot of kids who do get into prescription drugs and do drink a lot. I actually knew a few kids who were drinking underage and would actually bring some alcohol to school because they would steal it from their parents cabinets that weren't secured," Knickerbocker said.

Safe Homes is a program under the Livingston County Community Alliance.

"Over 70 percent of Livingston County youth consume alcohol either at their own house or at their friends’ houses," Kaitlin Maloziec, director of substance abuse at Livingston Catholic Charities, said.

The study from the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth was taken by seventh-, ninth- and 11th-grade students during the last school year.

By taking the Safe Homes pledge, parents agree to supervise teen gatherings on their property, not allow them to have or use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, and set expectations for their children about where they are going, with whom and when they will returned home. They also agree to secure all alcohol and prescription drugs inside their homes and talk with the parents of any children they witness using alcohol or drugs.

A Safe Homes sign is posted on front yards of families who have signed up for the program, making it easy for another parent to identify that home is safe from drugs or alcohol.

"They're going to be watching your kids, making sure that they're not drinking, that prescription drugs are locked up, that there is not going to be any marijuana use within their home or on their property, and that also they agree to contacting you if they personally see your child engage in substance use," Maloziec said.

For more information on the Safe Homes program, click here.

Maloziec said they have already had parents tell them that being in the program led to discussions with other parents about the importance of adult supervision at teen gatherings and to discussions with their own children, too. The parents also feel comfortable reaching out to other parents to check that there will be supervision at their home during a teen party or gathering.

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