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ARS-WUSA and Pacific Clinics Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction Forum Offers Community Facts and Hope

Glendale, CA.- The Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction community forum held on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 marked the first in a series of four forums organized in partnership between the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Western USA and the Pacific Clinics community behavioral healthcare center.

Over 50 community members gathered at the Armenag Der Bedrossian Hall of the Glendale St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church and received a wide breadth of information from an expert panel, including Garo Ghazarian, Esq.; Sgt. Greg Afsharian, Pasadena Police Department; Angelique Shirvanian of Action Parent and Teen Support Programs; Community Lead Officer Matt Zakarian, Glendale Police Department; and Kevin Babayan, MA, CDAC. Suzanne Douzmanyan, Chair of the Armenian Advisory Board of Pacific Clinics, served as the forum’s moderator.

Following remarks by ARS Regional Executive Chairperson Lena Bozoyan and Dr. Emma Oshagan of Pacific Clinics, both of whom welcomed the partnership opportunity and stressed the importance of raising awareness on this social issue, each panelist delivered a presentation based on their expertise.

As the first presenter, Mr. Garo Ghazarian delivered reflections based on his life experience in the United States for the past 35 years. He brought attention to the fact that substance abuse and drug addiction has become a pervasive issue among Armenian youth, stressed the importance of a family’s role in keeping open lines of communication with their children, as well as addressing issues directly as opposed to succumbing to denial. Ghazarian also shared personal accounts of drug offenders drawn from his experience as a criminal defense attorney.

Next, Sgt. Greg Afsharian offered insights from the law enforcement perspective by explaining the downside of using narcotics and the path of destruction that results. He explained the correlation between drug use and crime, and outlined warning signs that may be indicators of substance abuse and drug addiction, which may include sudden changes in personality, dropping grades, excessive sleeping, and heightened anger.

After providing background information on the Action Parent and Teen Support Programs and the free services provided to teens with high-risk behaviors and their parents, Angelique Shirvanian showed common drug paraphernalia used and, as such, the type of items that parents should look out for in their homes, stating “Be aware and be a part of the solution.” She urged parents to closely monitor their children’s activities and be involved in all aspects of a child’s life in an effort to be aware of any warning signals.

Following Shirvanian, Officer Matt Zakarian, who also serves as the President of the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition, highlighted the importance of reaching out to a variety of resources available to parents and their children centered on drug prevention and awareness models.  He gave special mention to the 40 developmental assets that are qualities, which can help young people make good choices in life.  A few of those discussed included family support, positive adult relationships, communication between family members, religion, and having clear and consistent rules.

The panel’s final speaker was Kevin Babayan, who after struggling with 20 years of drug addiction now boasts 14 years of sobriety. After receiving his education in the field of psychology, Babayan is the Executive Director of KB Recovery Systems. He touched on his personal experience with drug addiction and attested to the fact that it is certainly possible to make positive changes in one’s life, stating, “It’s possible to recover and heal.”

Following the presentations by panelists, a question and answer period followed during which attendees received the opportunity to pose questions to the experts.

While substance abuse and drug addiction remains a common societal problem, the organization of events of this nature help allow the public to receive the necessary knowledge pertaining to its causes, consequences, and available prevention and treatment resources.

The second in the series of community forums will focus on Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Anxiety. It will be held on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 from 6-8 pm at the Glendale Youth Center, located at 211 W. Chestnut St., Glendale, Calif. The panel includes Charles Pilavian, PsyD; Ida Karayan, PsyD, LMFT, CBT; and Sarkis Arevian, MD (Board Certified Psychiatrist). The forum’s moderator will be Arakel Davtian, MD (Board Certified Psychiatrist). Admission is free.

For additional information on the community forum series, visit www.facebook.com/arswusa or contact the ARS Regional Headquarters at (818) 500-1343.

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