ARS and Pacific Clinics Drug Abuse and Addiction Forum Offers Facts and Hope

From left to right: Garo Ghazarian, Kevin Babayan, Officer Matt Zakarian, Sgt. Greg Afsharian, Angelique Shirvanian, and Lena Bozoyan

GLENDALE—The Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction community forum held on Wednesday, November 28 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 health center.

More than 60 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.

ARS Regional Executive Chairperson Lena Bozoyan and Dr. Emma Oshagan of Pacific Clinics welcomed the partnership opportunity and stressed the importance of raising awareness on this social issue.

As the first presenter, Garo Ghazarian shared personal accounts of drug offenders drawn from his experience as a criminal defense attorney. He brought attention to the fact that substance abuse and drug addiction has become a pervasive issue among Armenian youth and 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.

Sgt. Greg Afsharian described 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 information on the free services provided to teens with high-risk behaviors and their parents, Angelique Shirvanian of Action Parent and Teen Support Programs 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.

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 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 offered hope, stating, “It’s possible to recover and heal.”

While substance abuse and drug addiction remains a common societal problem, the organization of events of this nature help inform the public about 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.. 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 facebook.com/arswusa or contact the ARS Regional Headquarters at (818) 500-1343.

The ARS of Western USA, established in 1984 and with regional headquarters in Glendale, CA, has 27 chapters and more than 1,500 members in five western states. The ARS-WUSA operates a Social Services Division, a Child, Youth, and Family Guidance Center, and funds numerous youth programs, scholarships and relief efforts.

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