LAW ENFORCEMENT

Sam’s Watch announces life-saving Substance Awareness Family Education event as teens head off for summer break

Parents and teens can learn how to ensure they have a safe summer at a substance-awareness panel May 20 in Johnson County. 

“Students will be looking for ways to kick back and relax on summer break, and we want to be sure they don’t think drugs are the way to do that,” said Jeanine Motsay, president of Sam’s Watch and the panel’s facilitator. “They need information to make wise decisions and this forum will make them and their parents aware of current drug dangers.”

The panel discussion will include Indiana Sen. Jim Merritt; Kristi Dunigan, a member of the Indiana Attorney General Prescription Drug Task Force; Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox; Michelle McMahon of Johnson County Communities that Care; Jamie Vickery, state coordinator of Indiana Students Against Destructive Decisions; Dr. Dick Huber, a substance abuse educator; Franklin Community Schools Athletic Director John Regas; and David Plew, a local parent advocate.  

The event is open to the public and will be held 7 - 8:15 p.m. at Franklin Community High School, 2600 Cumberland Road, Franklin. Attendees should enter through door 55 and go to the Large Instruction Room. Information will be available from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, Indiana SADD, Johnson Memorial Hospital, Tobacco Free Johnson County, Make Good Decisions, Overdose-Lifeline, Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County, Sam’s Watch, Tara Treatment Center and more.

Sam’s Watch is a nonprofit dedicated to teaching young people about the dangers of synthetic drugs. It was formed after Sam Motsay, a 16-year-old honors student-athlete, died on Mothers’ Day 2014 after he used a little-known synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe. For free access to student-produced awareness videos and more information, go to samswatch.org.

Franklin High School to start testing for synthetic drugs

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – A Johnson County high school is preparing to start testing students for synthetic drugs.

Franklin Community High School is able to expand the scope of their testing to include synthetic drugs and the number of students that they can test thanks to grant money.

The Director of Athletics for Franklin Community Schools, John Regas, says the goal is to build awareness letting students know that drugs will not be tolerated on campus.

“We’re not looking to get kids in trouble and catch a bunch of kids. That’s actually not what we’re trying to do,” said Regas.

The high school was recently approved for grant money. Around $4,700 will be used to help pay for the new testing. The policy will affect anywhere between 600 to 900 students.

Students driving to school, active in sports, inter-scholastic, or co-curricular activities like choir and band will be subjected to random testing.

“We have a random number generator that’s done and it selects students based upon on a random number that they’re assigned to and those students get tested,” said Regas.

However, Regas says if faculty or staff have reason to believe that a student may be under the influence of drugs, then he or she will be subjected as well.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office supports the measure.

“Last Mother’s Day, I went to a residence in Greenwood to notify a mother and a step-father that their 16-year-old son had died overnight from a drug called N-Bomb,” said Sheriff Doug Cox, from Johnson County sheriff’s office.

The tragedy of losing Samuel Motsay in the community is not only pushing schools, but also law enforcement to find a solution to combat synthetic drugs.

“In a lot of cases you find younger kids whose brain hasn’t developed yet,” said Cox. “They’re going to try to find ways to defeat the system so I give credit to Franklin.”

School officials have not formally notified students of the testing yet, but say they will start testing students later this month.

The new testing will cost the school $100 compared to $25.

High school revamps drug policy, by Tom Lange, Daily Journal

Nearly a dozen Franklin Community High School students were caught with synthetic marijuana at school last year, and one of the key reasons they chose the drug was because the school didn’t test for it.

School officials knew their drug screening policy wasn’t working well enough.

So the school district applied for a $4,500 grant. That money will let Franklin schools test up to 20 students per month, and the high school also can make synthetic drugs part of those screenings.

“Our whole main objective is to give students a reason to say ‘no,’” assistant principal Scott Martin said.

In August and September, Franklin school officials caught 11 students who had synthetic marijuana, known as Spice, or paraphernalia with them at school. This was a first for the high school.

Usually when teachers and principals found drugs, it was marijuana or pills but not synthetic drugs, Martin said.

Students told officials they picked that drug because there was a better chance they wouldn’t get caught, since the school’s random drug screenings wouldn’t catch synthetic drugs. They also didn’t think they’d be selected for random drug testing. Out of 600 to 800 students subject to random drug testing, nine were selected each month, Martin said.

Students at most Johnson County school districts have to agree to random drug testing if they drive to school, are athletes or are part of other extracurricular activities. Students also can be drug tested if school officials have reason to believe they’re under the influence.

Drug testing and screening policies vary by school district. Greenwood schools, for example, prohibit the use of synthetic drugs but don’t currently test for those substances, Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.

A big reason: cost.

A standard drug test, which screens for substances such as marijuana, cocaine and opiates, costs $15 to $25. Screenings that test for Spice and other synthetic drugs cost at least $100, Martin said.

With the Drug Free Johnson County grant, along with money from student parking permits that already was used to pay for testing, Franklin can start testing up to 20 students per month and include synthetic drugs in those tests.

The hope is that if more students are drug tested and if they know they can be tested for synthetic drugs, fewer people will use them, Martin said.

Franklin has slowly started increasing the number of students randomly drug tested, testing nine students one month and 20 students another month, and soon school officials will start testing 20 students every month. The high school sends identification numbers for students to a lab, which then randomly selects which students will be tested. But not every student will be tested for Spice. Of the 20 students selected for a random drug test, two would also be selected for synthetic drug screenings, Martin said.

If students test positive, they can lose their driving or extracurricular privileges but still attend school. Students can earn privileges back if they complete drug assessment programs, which can last from a few months to a year, and pass additional drug tests, Martin said.

But if students are caught using drugs or are high at school, they can be expelled. The students later might be allowed to enroll in the high school’s online Franklin Academy, depending on the circumstances of what happened, Martin said.

School officials know they still can’t catch every synthetic drug, largely because of how often those drugs are being created and updated. Last May, Center Grove High School student Samuel Motsay died after taking a synthetic hallucinogen known as N-Bomb, and police had to send samples of the drug to a lab to verify what it was because they’d not seen it before.

Schools work to learn about the new drugs and then warn parents and students about their potential consequences as quickly as possible, Martin said.

“It’s tough to stay ahead of anything anymore,” he said. “People that put drugs out there, they’re trying to do anything to get people hooked. I’m not sure if we can ever stay ahead of them, it’s more about learning and trying to educate ourselves.”

TESTING STUDENTS

Here are the details of the Drug Free Johnson County grant Franklin schools received to pay for additional drug testing, and what it means for students:

$4,500 Grant amount

600-800 Typical number of Franklin students subject to random drug testing

9 Previous number of students randomly drug tested per month

20 New number of students randomly drug tested per month

$15-$25 Cost of a drug test that screens for traditional drugs

$100-$150 Cost of a drug test that includes synthetic drugs

"State lawmaker seeks tougher penalties for deadly drug," FOX59, May 27, 2014, by Dan Spehler.

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s known as NBOME – a deadly drug that’s now been blamed for the deaths of two teens in our area.

And on Tuesday one of the teen’s mothers went to court seeking justice – as one state lawmaker looks for harsher sentences to deal with the deadly drug.

Jeanine Motsay’s son Sam died after overdosing on the new synthetic drug. The suspect accused of manufacturing those drugs that led to Sam’s death, Zachary Catron, was in court Tuesday on nine weapons and drug charges.

“I think there has to be a stiffer penalty,” said Motsay.

State senator Jim Merritt agrees that the penalties need to be more severe. Next year, Merritt says he’ll try again to pass new laws with harsher penalties for these new designer drugs.

“I want to see tougher penalties for the manufacturing, for the distribution or the possession of all these designer drugs,” said Merritt. “We have got to reach out to all of our kids and talk about the dangers because there’s no overdose here, you die. This is poison. There’s no high, you die.”

And not only are they dangerous, but the drugs also seem to be marketed specifically toward children.

“They make it looks so pleasing and plausible,” said Merritt. “The packaging, obviously, is shameful. The whole situation’s shameful but the way they make it look like Crackle candy and something kids would gravitate to… it is shameful.”

Sam’s mom spoke with FOX59 Monday night in a one-on-one interview.

She said her son carried a 4.0 GPA and was looking forward to a summer of basketball camp, weightlifting and a job. Sam played basketball in Carmel on the last Friday and Saturday nights of his life. The mother and son returned home just before midnight. Within 12 hours, Sam was found dead.

“Sam’s experience can help others,” said Motsay. “I’m learning things I didn’t think I would learn as a parent. This is a whole new world.”

“I’m glad that she’s going to become part of the crusade, because it’s going to take a crusade,” said Merritt. “This has no place in our society.”

Sen. Merritt wants to make the penalties for these synthetic or look-alike drugs the same as the penalties for the drug they’re modeled after, like LSD. The bill passed the state senate last year, but did not get out of the house. Merritt says he’ll be trying again during next year’s session.

Zachary Catron, Kyle Hazzard and Jordan Adamowitz were jailed following Motsay’s death. Hazzard and Adamowitz led police to Catron, who admitted making the batch of NBOME that took Motsay’s life.

Catron had a hearing in Marion Superior Court Tuesday morning to reconsider his $200,000 bond on nine weapons and drug charges.

Investigators say they found several drugs and weapons at Catron’s house, where he was still wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet from a previous arrest. He’s currently being held in Marion County on nine felony charges.

At his bond hearing Tuesday morning, Catron’s attorney requested a second hearing and review of council. A judge granted that and set another court date for Friday, May 30th at 8:45 a.m.

He also has a hearing in Johnson County Wednesday on a previous drug arrest.

"Man accused of making drugs involved in teen’s overdose goes to court," FOX59, MAY 27, 2014 by Vanessa McClure.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 27, 2014)– The man investigators say made a batch of illegal synthetic drugs involved in a teenager’s overdose was in Marion County court Tuesday morning.

Zachary Catron, 24, is one of three adults arrested for their alleged involvement in the death of 16-year-old Sam Motsay. Motsay was found dead in a friend’s home earlier this month. He died of a drug overdose of a relatively new synthetic drug known as N-Bomb orNBOME.

Investigators say they found several drugs and weapons at Catron’s house, where he was still wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet from a previous arrest. He’s currently being held in Marion County on nine felony charges.

Catron’s bond hearing happened Tuesday morning where his attorney requested a second hearing and review of council. A judge granted that and set another court date for Friday, May 30th at 8:45 a.m.

Meanwhile, Motsay’s mother is speaking out about her mission to educate parents and young people about the dangers the drug that killed her son. Motsay’s death is the third suspected overdose of NBOME in Indiana this year.