Teen hotline on track to help prevent tragedy

Oct 29, 2013

Even if it’s the right thing to do, it’s not easy for teens to tell on their peers when they’re doing something they shouldn’t. But sometimes, telling on a friend could mean saving his or her life in the process.

A new hotline in Haywood County was recently created by teens for teens to safely and anonymously report underage drinking activity.

Statistics tell us that by the time our children turn 15, more than 50 percent of them have had at least one drink.

Of course, the hotline is not just for alcohol. Drugs, particularly prescription medication, are rampant in communities across the nation, and Haywood County is not immune.

If teens call the hotline number 828-356-APAL, they may anonymously disclose information to law enforcement about any concern they may have about a friend. If police action is warranted, they will be dispatched. But sometimes they may just provide the person with the resources needed to solve their problems.

The best part about this hotline is that it’s not just for teens. Like Maggie Valley Police Chief Scott Sutton pointed out, there might be a teacher or administrator who wants to tell authorities about underage illegal activity but doesn’t want to reveal themselves. Maybe there is a neighbor concerned about an adult providing alcohol to teens next door.

Though the students of Teen Institute who call themselves the OTTERs, are responsible for naming the hotline and getting the word out to schools, the initiative is backed by a number of strong local supporters.

Ellen Pitt with MADD is a huge advocate for this project and a person who deserves part of the credit for bringing the idea to life.  The office of District Attorney Mike Bonfoey, all five law enforcement agencies in the county and the local ABC board are all part of making the hotline happen.

Sheriff Greg Christopher is arranging for those calling the hotline to be dispatched directly to the sheriff’s office, where the call will be handled as needed.

We’re lucky to have such passionate leaders in Haywood County who are willing to find unique approaches to old problems. This hotline is believed to be the first of its kind in the state, and we hope that it garners enough support and success that it is adopted in counties statewide.

We hope that students, teachers, parents and more will jump on board to support this initiative and get the word out to others.