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FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 5, 2017) -- This year’s Red Ribbon Week is Oct. 23-31.

The observance brings attention to the Red Ribbon Campaign, a nationwide effort to prevent drug use among young people.

The 2017 observance is “Your Future is Key, So Stay Drug Free.” Created by a middle school student, it speaks to human potential without the life-robbing consequences of drug use.

At the local level, the Army Substance Abuse Program at Fort Lee is distributing educational material while promoting its first-ever Red Ribbon Photo Contest.

The contest, which runs through Oct. 31, encourages organizations or individuals to submit one photo of a decorated office, mailbox, etc. that best supports this year’s theme (see info box).

Elias Barnes, prevention specialist, Fort Lee Army Substance Abuse Program, said Red Ribbon Week is a “campaign of awareness and education that serves to help the public understand the dangers of illegal drug use and drug abuse.”

Currently, a number of drugs pose threats to families and communities. Among these are the preponderance of opioids, the use of which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared an epidemic. Of the more than 52,000 people who died from overdoses in 2015, 33,091 or 63.1 percent, involved prescription or illicit opioids.

More than 300,000 Americans have died as a result of opioid overdoses since 2000.

Education and awareness is key to combating all drug use, said Barnes, and a wealth of educational resources is available to community members on and off the installation. ASAP offers informational and educational seminars on a wide range of topics related to substance abuse and is able to coordinate training with outside organizations.

Units desiring to conduct drug awareness training should coordinate through their family readiness group. Organizations can contact ASAP directly.

“We’ll be more than happy to support,” said Barnes.

The National Red Ribbon Campaign has its beginnings in 1985 when Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique Camarena was murdered by drug cartel members. In honor of his memory, members of his community began wearing red ribbons to symbolize his commitment.

For more information about ASAP, call (804) 765-3941/9182 or visit http://www.lee.army.mil/hrd/army.substance.abuse.program.aspx.

To learn more about the Red Ribbon Campaign, visit http://redribbon.org.