At Charlotte Behavioral Health Care, we have been witnessing some new trends in our area amongst our youth and are constantly shifting to focus more on the kids to accommodate their needs.
One of the programs hoping to combat some of the problems, namely drug abuse, is the Juvenile Drug Court. The new juvenile drug court in Charlotte County is the work of multiple agencies, including the State Attorney’s Office, the Department of Juvenile Justice and Charlotte Behavioral Health Care, to name a few. Since substance abuse is a common driving force behind most of the juvenile offenders in Charlotte County, we are hoping to combat these problems with Juvenile Drug Court. This court was modeled after adult drug courts and the new program will take up to 5 individuals, with hopes that it will grow in the future if other fund sources or grants are made available. Offenders in this program complete a set of strict rules, weekly drug testing, counseling and weekly visits with court officials. CBHC believes that kids with substance abuse problems and possibly co-existing mental illnesses are better served in their communities, versus detention or incarceration. There is hope that the Juvenile Drug Court program will reduce the recidivism rate among the juvenile drug offenders in our county. This would ultimately remove them from the court system and allow children to still experience their childhood while working with adult issues within their home and families.
With this being said, some of the kids seen in the new Juvenile Drug Court program are a result of using, trying or abusing synthetic drugs. Officials in Southwest Florida have become increasingly alarmed by the health problems associated with these synthetic drugs. Some of the kids that have used these synthetic drugs have spent over a week in the Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU), and still suffered from some residual effects after they were discharged. Symptoms of synthetic drug use include not eating or sleeping, delusions such as the ability to fly, and extreme heat resulting in nudity.
Charlotte Behavioral, which treats patients from across Southwest Florida, including DeSoto and Sarasota counties, has seen patients as young as middle school age.
“You ask them specifically about K2 or bath salts, and they look puzzled,” Katina Matthews-Ferrari, Chief Medical Officer for CBHC says. “A lot of them don’t see it as a drug.” The synthetic drug appears to be targeting younger kids by having cartoon characters on the packaging. Scooby Doo, SpongeBob and Dopey are among the characters currently on packages in Southwest Florida.