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La Habra Summit : Anti-Drug Ideas to Be Tossed About

February 25, 1988|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | Times Staff Writer

Nancy Reagan would be proud of La Habra, where a battle against drugs is about to begin.

When the doors open at a La Habra church at 8:15 a.m. today, the mayor, police chief, schools superintendent, parents and teen-agers will convene for a first-of-its-kind summit in the city to discuss drug abuse.

While anti-drug conferences in small cities are not unusual, most are attended only by mid-level officials and community leaders, according to conference organizer Kaki Koehler. But in La Habra, organizers said, the war on drugs is top priority.

Not that the drug problem is worse in La Habra than in other places. Police Capt. John Rees estimates that local drug-related arrests total about 240 a year.

Not 'Drug City'

But, Koehler said: "I don't want people to think of us as Drug City. . . . While we don't have a direct problem yet, we have to work on prevention."

The meeting will be held in the Church on the North Side, and most of the funding for it will come from a $30,000 grant to La Habra High School from the "Just Say No" program initiated by Mrs. Reagan.

Koehler, an English and psychology teacher at La Habra High, said the conference will give students a chance to offer their ideas about combating drug use.

La Habra High football player Jamie Hutcherson, a student delegate to the conference, said the idea appeals to him. Hutcherson said he will offer an insider's perspective about the chain reactions created by peer pressure.

"I have friends on drugs and I try to cope with it," Hutcherson said. "They have their views and I have mine. I just don't want them to end up like my older friends who are on drugs."

Those older friends, he said, are working "for minimum wage, getting high on Friday nights, that kind of thing."

Mayor James Flora said the conference is another example of his city's tradition of "voluntarism and involvement."

"Drugs ruin lives, families, and we have to in some way provide assistance," he said. "The focus has to be on youth."

'Get the Word Out'

Joan Darling, vice president of the La Habra Chamber of Commerce, who also plans to attend, said drug habits acquired in school become major problems for employers.

"To improve things in the workplace," she said, "employers have to get the word out down to the level of the youngsters, the employees of the future."

But the Rev. Eric Christensen of La Habra Hills Presbyterian Church, who also plans to attend, said he has limited expectations about the conference.

"I'd like to hear the experts at the conference, but honestly, I can't see an answer. I'll just keep working in trying to effect change among individuals," he said.

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