By Morgan Murphy
For the Opelika
Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes has made it his mission to bring Drug Impairment Training for the Education Professional (DITEP) to the school systems of Lee County.
DITEP has evolved from the Drug Recognition Expert Program (DRE) that began in the late 70’s. Law enforcement professionals were trained to go through a 12 step process to determine what drug or combination of drugs may impair someone. When Hughes was campaigning for his seat as District Attorney, DITEP was a huge part of his platform.
“We have done a lot of work to get this program here. Now, the question is, what can we do with it, how robust can we go it?” stated Hughes.
“Rather than letting it be just an enforcement tool, I saw it as an opportunity to really make an impact on communities because obviously, we would rather impact students and young people before we have to deal with them in the criminal justice system…We are not looking to lock people up, charge them with crimes or put them in jail, this is an opportunity to identify these kids and get them help.”
DITEP is a two-day course that is paid for by the District Attorney’s office.
“We talk to them – the education professionals– about how to recognize what to do, how to test for it, how to have that conversation with the student and how to have the conversation with the parent. It is a very immersive training for sure.”
The previous DITEP showed great promise for the future of this program.
“Every school district in Lee County was represented, we had teachers there, nurses there, we had administrators and principals there, which I thought was critical because they need to have the buy-in in order to implement this into their school system. We also had school resource officers from Opelika Police Department and Auburn Police Department, which I thought was great.” shared Hughes.
Hughes plans on holding another DITEP next summer for any school professional willing to participate.
For more information or interest in attending, contact the Lee County District Attorney Office at 334-737-3446.