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Family Focus: The Sundt Family

Posted by Informed Families on September 27, 2018 at 3:04 PM

Sundt brothers

Jon Sundt tragically lost both of his brothers, Steve & Eric, to drug addiction.

“Steve and Eric had dreams,” said Sundt, a businessman and founder of alternative investment company Altegris. “They were athletes, they loved the outdoors and they loved the ocean. They were on a good path, enjoying life. [They] got sidetracked, listened to some friends who turned out to be not very good friends.”

Both became addicted to drugs in high school, thinking that they could just “experiment” and everything would turn out ok.

“They thought drugs were cool and would lead to something they [didn’t] have,” said Sundt. “They tried to fit in and kick it up a notch by doing drugs.”

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Topics: suicide, mental health, healthy kids, drug use, drug prevention

How Many Florida Children & Teens Drink Or Use Drugs?

Posted by Informed Families on September 25, 2018 at 2:17 PM

People make a lot of assumptions about what children and teens do or don't do when it comes to substance abuse. This can be based on the person's own experiences, what he or she sees on social media or in movies or what others may have experienced. Luckily, we don't have to assume, thanks to the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey (FYSAS) report, which was just released for 2018.

The FYSAS was administered to almost 55,000 Florida students in 686 middle and high schools in February of 2018.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Alcohol and cigarette use is declining. Between 2006 and 2018, past-month use of alcohol declined by 16.7 percent (11.7% for middle school students and 20.6% among high school students), binge drinking declined by 10 percent (5.3% for middle school students and 13.4% for high school students) and cigarette use declined by 8.1 percent (4.8% for middle school students and 10.6 percent reduction among high school students).
  • Binge drinking is still an issue. One out of every 10 high school students reported binge drinking in the last 30 days and one out of seven reported blacking out from drinking.
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Topics: drug abuse, teens, children, alcohol use

Family Focus: Melissa & Demetrius Branca

Posted by Informed Families on August 30, 2018 at 4:26 PM

Family Focus: Melissa & Demetrius Branca

Four years ago, Melissa Branca received a call that would change her life forever. Her stepson Anthony was struck and killed by a distracted driver on his way to work. He was hit in his vehicle while waiting to make a left turn. The truck driver, who was going 40 miles per hour when he hit Anthony, received a $1,100 fine and a 6-month license suspension for careless driving. Anthony died one month before his 20th birthday.

“When you experience a loss of this magnitude, everything changes…you turn into a completely different person,” said Branca. “I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. This shouldn’t have happened. It was preventable. Distracted driving is an underserved problem, legislatively and otherwise.”

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Topics: parents, driving, impaired driving, distracted driving, Florida

Last Year Was The Worst Year In US History For Drug Overdoses

Posted by Informed Families on August 26, 2018 at 5:31 PM

prescription-drug-USDrug overdose was responsible for the loss of nearly 72,000 Americans in 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. That’s just under 200 people each day for the entire year - and 8,000 more deaths than the previous year, also a record year. At least 2/3 of those deaths were due to opioid abuse. Here are two trends that are contributing to this awful epidemic.

From Pills To Heroin

Patients receiving prescription drugs for pain as a result of an injury or recovering from surgery are often given significantly more than they need. While opioids are effective in managing pain, their addictive properties make them dangerous for long-term use.

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Topics: drug abuse, prescription drugs, prescription drug abuse, opioids, lock your meds

Family Focus: Ginger Katz of the Courage To Speak Foundation

Posted by Informed Families on July 11, 2018 at 11:57 AM

When Ginger Katz’s 20-year-old son Ian died of a drug overdose, the doctors suggested she tell people that he died of a heart attack or brain aneurysm. Katz said that the night before the funeral, she couldn’t sleep, feeling “physically, spiritually and intellectually” unable to attend the next day’s events.

“I felt that [for me to attend the funeral] they’d have to carry me,” said Katz. “Then, I’m not sure where it came from but at some point that night, I visualized speaking out. I was not one for public speaking but I woke my husband up and told him that I wanted to speak out. I said, ‘if this is happening to us, it’s happening to other families and no one is talking about it.’”

Twenty-two years later, Ginger and her husband Larry Katz are still talking about their experience through the non-profit organization they ultimately founded: the Courage to Speak Foundation. They make presentations to children, parents, educators, clergy, professionals and others in 40 states. Knowing that their story alone could only take families so far, Ginger and Larry worked with a team of experts to develop curriculum evaluated and recommended by the Yale School of Medicine. Their elementary, middle and high school curriculum is implemented across the country. Additionally, they offer a multi-session program for parents called Courage to Speak -Courageous Parenting 101®.

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Topics: parents, overdose, drug prevention, opioids

Orlando Schools Earn National Recognition & Red Ribbon Certification

Posted by Informed Families on June 22, 2018 at 3:35 PM

Three Orange County schools, Robinswood Middle, Wedgefield K-8 and Winegard Elementary, will be raising a new flag next year: a Red Ribbon Certified Schools flag, given to them for their outstanding, year-round substance abuse prevention efforts. The schools were among only four across the nation to receive the coveted title of Red Ribbon Certified Schools.

Red Ribbon Certified Schools, an Informed Families program, recognizes schools that improve academic performance by keeping kids drug and alcohol free, while engaging parents and the community. When families are looking for a safe school with a healthy environment, Red Ribbon Certified Schools are a good place to start. It's like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for prevention.

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Topics: red ribbon week, prevention, red ribbon certified schools

Suicide Prevention for Children & Teens

Posted by Informed Families on June 14, 2018 at 9:06 AM

Suicide is on the rise. According to the CDC, there's been a 30% rise in suicides since 1999. What can we do to prevent it? First we need to look at what’s causing it.

Many factors contribute to suicide and surprisingly, a history of mental issues is not always one of them. In fact, a recent study from the CDC found that 54 percent of the people who killed themselves didn't have a previously known mental health issue; rather, they were dealing with other problems including substance abuse or physical health, relationship, work or money issues.

The study emphasizes the need to both prevent the circumstances associated with the onset of emotional issues and to continue support those with known mental health issues. The authors of the study stress the need for prevention, which includes “teaching coping and problem-solving skills to manage everyday stressors and prevent future relationship problems, especially early in life; promoting social connectedness to increase a sense of belonging and access to informational, tangible, emotional, and social support.”

So what are some warning signs of suicide?

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Topics: suicide, mental health, healthy kids

33rd Annual Dinner At Joe's A Huge Success

Posted by Informed Families on May 16, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Dedicated Event Chair Joe Natoli & Sponsors Took Annual Event To New Heights

Miami’s finest gathered for Informed Families/The Florida Family Partnership’s 33rd Annual Dinner At Joe’s, showing their support for preventing drug problems before they start.

The illustrious event, held on Monday, May 14, was chaired by Joe Natoli of Baptist Health South Florida. Close to $250,000 was raised to support Informed Families’ statewide prevention programs and initiatives designed to help kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free.

400 guests attended the dinner, which was complete with local celebrity sightings, a pre-dinner Street Party and of course Joe’s signature stone crabs, coleslaw, hash browns, key lime pie and legendary service. Several attendees who haven’t missed a Joe’s dinner were recognized with a special pin to commemorate their commitment to Informed Families and helping kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free.

Some notable event attendees include: Betty Chapman and Dale Chapman Webb, Alfred & Pam Giganti Bunge, Penny Shaffer, Nancy & Jon Batchelor, Dorothy & Aaron Podhurst, Susan & Jim Carr, Judge Norma & Eugene Lindsey, Ginger Mead, Susan & Robin Shelley, Al Cardenas, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, Senator Anitere Flores and State Representative Nick Duran.

Check out the photos here.

“Informed Families focuses on addressing and preventing addiction and mental health issues among children and families by reducing risk factors and increase protective factors affecting our children,” said President & CEO Peggy Sapp. “We are so grateful to our community of Joe’s event supporters who inspire us with their outpouring of generosity and serve to remind us of the power of community involvement, which in itself is a protective factor.”

The event's success is the result of the dedication and generosity of the following sponsors:

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Topics: Joe's Stone Crab, Peggy Sapp, Florida, fundraiser

Joe's Pre-Party At Miami Cancer Institute

Posted by Informed Families on March 14, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Informed Families kicked off preparations for its 33rd Annual Dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant at an exclusive Pre-Party held at the Miami Cancer Institute (MCI) at Baptist Health South Florida (BHSF).

President & CEO Peggy Sapp and Joe’s Event Chair Joe Natoli welcomed guests who shared their favorite stories from past dinners and enjoyed live music from the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. Guests received tours of the new Proton Therapy Center at MCI. BHSF’s Care & Counseling team presented on the Opioid epidemic, which led to a thoughtful conversation on how we can tackle the crisis.

Check out photos from the Pre-Party!

The Annual Informed Families Dinner at Joe’s, to be held on Monday, May 14, supports programs that further the organization’s mission of helping kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free.

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Topics: Joe's Stone Crab, healthy kids

Introducing The 2018 Red Ribbon Theme: Life Is Your Journey. Travel Drug Free.™

Posted by Informed Families on February 16, 2018 at 12:57 PM

Drum roll, please! After receiving thousands of Red Ribbon Week theme ideas from students, parents, educators, law enforcement and community members across the U.S., the National Family Partnership proudly announced this year's winning theme: "Life Is Your Journey. Travel Drug Free™." 

Taeya Moore, a student at Solon Middle School in Solon, Ohio created the theme for 2018 Red Ribbon Week, which takes place October 23-31, and will receive $500 of prevention materials for her school.

The annual National Red Ribbon Theme Contest, sponsored by the National Family Partnership, offers students and other prevention supporters the opportunity to be a part of history. The winning slogan will be used throughout 2018 in thousands of schools and communities across America.


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Topics: red ribbon, red ribbon week, red ribbon theme, 2015 red ribbon theme

About Us

We teach people how to say no to drugs and how to make healthy choices. To reduce the demand for drugs, Informed Families has focused its efforts on educating and mobilizing the community, parents and young people in order to change attitudes. In this way we counteract the pressures in society that condone and promote drug and alcohol use and abuse. The organization educates thousands of families annually about how to stay drug and alcohol free through networking and a variety of programs and services .

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