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Last fall, parents and their children were given the opportunity to experience the dramatic reality of a child who uses drugs. Thanks to the dedicated members of the Billings Jaycees, Lockwood Fire Department, Lockwood School District, Montana Crime Prevention Association, Montana State Elks Association, United Way of Yellowstone County, stage directors from Venture Theatre, Yellowstone County Sheriff's office, RiverStone Health, Mental Health Center and numerous individuals.

At Lockwood School District's first Reality Tour last September, parents and children were on their feet, touring the consequences of substance abuse punctuated with dramatic scenes, a testimony from a recovering addict, information from local law enforcement and a parent strategy session.

Afterward, one sixth-grade boy encouraged volunteers to "keep doing this and changing lives." Parents reported that the event encouraged them to listen and be more aware of their children's situations, to have more family dinners and to talk to their children about their policy on drug and alcohol use.

Lockwood School District embraces prevention and is the pilot project for a larger, all-encompassing campaign to educate parents and their children against substance abuse throughout Yellowstone County. Thanks to these dedicated members of our community, we are encouraged that fewer youth will begin using drugs and alcohol after having experienced the Reality Tour and that their parents are more confident after having this community conversation. We truly live in a community committed to the health of our youth.

The next Reality Tour will be Jan. 19 in Lockwood.

Kristi Drake

United Way of Yellowstone County

Billings