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Drug House Odyssey encourages good choices
February 15, 2017

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Make the right choices in life, because the consequences of making the wrong ones could be devastating.

Fifth-graders throughout Lee County al Drug House Odyssey returned to the Lee Civic Center, presented by the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida.

For some, it was a powerful lesson that brought tears to their eyes.

Deb Camello, executive director at the coalition, said the event has likely saved countless lives, and that the event has helped reduce the use of alcohol in kids, who will likely begin to experience opportunities to make these choices.

"A comprehensive program such as Drughouse Odyssey can help those kind of numbers. The age of onset is 10, so we target this to fifth-graders in the hopes we can change that," Camello said. "Lee County professionals have a real passion for our children."

The event featured a play in which attendees follow a group of teenagers and the consequences of their making the wrong choices. On Thursday, it was students at Bayshore Elementary who got to experience it.

The scenes include a party, where police arrive to see underage kids drinking, a sobriety test, a courtroom scene, a car accident where a passenger is critically injured, and in the emergency room, where the teen dies from injuries.

Timothy Sharp, a student at Mariner High School, said the lesson is to not drink underage or overindulge.

"Drugs are definitely something you should stay away from and you shouldn't drive in conjunction with it," Sharp said. "We're warding kids from things that can hurt them. Even kids our age are falling victim to this."

Jennifer Forsythe, of the State Attorney's office in Lee County, played the judge who handed down a sentence to a teen convicted of DUI and drug possession. This is her fifth year doing this and she said she loves the program.

"It's a great opportunity for students and how drugs and alcohol can affect your lives and the choices we make have ramifications," Forsythe said. "It's a good idea to teach them early about things that can hurt them in the future."

Among those helping included students at Mariner High School, the Cape Coral Police Dept., the Lee County Sheriff's Office, the Florida Highway Patrol, Lee Health, the state attorney's office in Lee County, Bayshore Fire & Rescue and Lee County EMS.

"In the age of Uber, there's no reason to be driving under the influence," said Danny Gray, DUI officer for the Cape Coral Police Department. "I hope this has an impact on them. At this point they're starting to be influenced by their peers."

"Getting them to understand the danger of drugs and alcohol, is very important. At this age. It's priceless," Bayshore Fire Chief Larry Nisbet said. "When you see a 15- or 16-year-old involved in a serious accident, it affects not only the families but also the first responders. It tears at your heart."

The event tugged at the hearts of many of the students. Some cried as they heard the stories from LCSO deputies who have lost loved ones from drunk driving and witnessed the hospital scene.

Katie Ostrander, fifth-grade teacher at Bayshore who did the event last year, said she hoped the kids got something from this.

"There are different emotions, different reactions from students. Every time, it's a learning experience," Ostrander said. "Some are shocked, from it or scared from it, or are puzzled and unaware this can happen. I hope they learned how important their choices are."

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