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Image of Judge Jodi.

 On Feb. 28, former felony prosecutor Hon. Jodi Debbrecht Switalski spoke to Port Byron Central School District students about the dangers of drug abuse.

Experts warn Port Byron students about drug abuse

Two guest speakers who recently highlighted Port Byron Central School District’s student presentation on drug abuse skipped the 'Just Say No' campaign and went straight to the cold, hard facts.

"Twenty percent of the students in this room will abuse drugs at some point and 20 percent of you will never touch the stuff," said veteran DEA agent Mr. Robert Stutman. "The rest of this audience right now doesn’t know which way they will go, and that's especially concerning."

On Feb. 28, Mr. Stutman, who is a 25-year DEA veteran, and former felony prosecutor Hon. Jodi Debbrecht Switalski delivered to students in grades 7-12 their program "Welcome to America's Worst Drug Epidemic: The Undeniable Truth about the Drug Epidemic of the 21st Century." With a combined 55 years of experience, the duo works together as part of the Stutman Switalski Group to teach parents, students and communities about the debilitating dangers of drug abuse.

"How many of you know someone who has taken hallucinogenic mushrooms - or 'shrooms' before?" Mr. Stutman asked the junior/senior high school students.

Nearly one-third of the student-audience raised their hands.

"The thing is, taking 'shrooms' makes you nauseas and you'll likely throw up before you get high. So your friend who took 'shrooms' likely consumed mushrooms that were purchased form a grocery store, baked in an oven and topped with a random drug," he said.

Mr. Stutman said replica drug-induced mushrooms could be laced with a synthetic and psychedelic chemical like D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), but the sky’s the limit in the drug world.

"On average, drugs touch seven different sets of hands before they reach the retail consumer," he said, comparing the transactions to a game of 'telephone' where a message often becomes misheard and distorted as it’s whispered from player to player. "How could you be so trusting? The telephone game's message is rarely accurate by the time it reaches the last person."

Mr. Stutman, who as a special agent has performed more than 500 undercover drug purchases, told students that without having the substance lab-tested he can’t just by looking at it decipher between pure cocaine and rat poison.

"If I can’t tell the difference, you can’t tell the difference," he said. "And the only way you’re going to figure out what the drug is, is if you use it and it does what you hope it’s going to do."

It's an incredible way to test your life, Mr. Stutman said.

The guests tailored the presentation based on audience age level and promised students a morning of honesty and no judgment. They also promised they knew what they were talking about and students could take what they say “to the bank.”

“We’ve both lived in the drug world,” Mr. Stutman said. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but we know more about this subject than you do.”

Facts, research and anecdotes from the front lines were weaved into Mr. Stutman’s presentation. When discussing how adolescent marijuana use interferes with brain development, he referred to a recent study recently released by the American Association of Pediatrics. To illustrate the dangerous power of opioids, he spoke about Heath Ledger, an actor who died minutes after inadvertently consuming a lethal combination of prescription medication.

For her portion of the presentation, Judge Jodi compared her hometown of “middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin” to Port Byron and while scanning the room told students they reminded her of her teenage self.

“You have two choices here,” she said. “You can choose to do nothing and live the destiny of this area, or you can do something, find purpose and be the change you want to be.”

Projected on a screen behind her was the selfie of a wide-eyed twenty-something. Judge Jodi told students that the young female – who easily could have passed for a Port Byron student – was an opioid-turned-heroin abuser who got hooked on drugs following recovery from a routine dental procedure.

“She went from painkillers to heroin,” Judge Jodi said. “The heroin grabbed ahold of her before she knew what was happening and claimed her life.”

Students were encouraged to make decisions based on their own discretions, and not because it’s what friends or a doctor tell them to do.

“You can choose to do something with your life, or you can choose to set yourself back,” Judge Jodi said.

Confidential counseling sessions for any students wishing to participate were held after the speaking engagement.



Parents, community members invited to evening presentation


On March 1, Judge Jodi and Mr. Stutman will present an evening program for parents, guardians and community members. The 6:30 p.m. presentation, which will be held in Port Byron CSD’s auditorium, will address the following questions:

- Why do kids use drugs at such an early age?

- Which drugs are most commonly abused?

- about heroin, opioids and synthetics?

- What can you, as a parent, do about it?

Their program will also discuss current drug trends in the United States, feature real-life stories from the front lines of today’s families, and offer thoughts on how to cope and potentially resolve this debilitating problem.

Admission is free.

The speaking engagements were made possible thanks to a grant provided by the Auburn Problem-Solving Court's Bureau of Justice Asset Grant.


 A 25-five year DEA veteran, Mr. Stutman during the Feb. 28 presentation at Port Byron Central School District tells students that, on avaerage, drugs pass though about seven different sets of hands before they get to the retail consumer.


Image of Judge Jodi.

On Feb. 28, former felony prosecutor Hon. Jodi Debbrecht Switalski spoke to Port Byron Central School District students about the dangers of drug abuse.