It started with a relapse.
A 19-year-old employee at one of Anthony Webb’s cell phone stores fell asleep at the wheel one night after an evening of alcohol and drug-induced revelry and hit another driver head on.
The other driver was killed in the incident, while the 19-year-old went to jail for his actions.
"Two people lost their lives that night. The family of the other driver lost a father, and the young man lost his life when he went to jail," Webb said.
It was this incident that compelled Webb to give up his cell phone stores in favor of helping teens and parents address drug-use issues.
He opened Lab Testing Solutions Inc., a drug-testing company, in August 2008 and recently started working with officials in Braselton to deal with drug use and its repercussions.
Contacts in the checkout line
Webb’s business is based out of Suwanee, about 20 minutes down Interstate 85 from Braselton, but he found out more about Braselton after meeting a town official’s spouse in a checkout line.
"I met Jennifer Dees’ husband at a gas station in Suwanee, standing in line," he said. "He had moved here from Alabama, and my wife was just transferred there, so we struck up a conversation."
When the subject of work came up, Webb explained his new occupation and Dees’ husband put him in contact with town officials.
Since then, the town of Braselton has started calling on Webb’s company for drug-testing needs.
"We were having issues with our previously company being able to conduct the tests when we needed them and we also didn’t like having our employees have to leave the workplace to have them done," Jennifer Dees said.
"Mr. Webb’s company comes and conducts the tests at Town Hall and is significantly cheaper than the previous provider."
The town of Braselton’s drug policy prohibits any "use, possession, sale, or solicitation for the purpose of purchase/sale of drugs or alcohol on town property or while the employee is on duty." Interfering with drug tests and attending town functions in an inebriated state are also against town policy, and town officials who violate the policy are subject to "severe disciplinary action up to and including discharge."
Braselton officials may also go through random drug testing quarterly, using a computer system to randomly select officials to take the tests, the policy notes.
Webb’s company uses several pieces of drug-testing equipment, including a Breathalyzer, a cup for urine analysis and a spray bottle used to test surfaces in one’s office or room for drugs, Webb said.
Sending messages to teens and parents
Though Webb’s business is primarily a drug-testing operation, he said talking to parents and teens about preventing and dealing with drug use is just as important to his business.
He hopes to start working more in churches and schools in the Braselton community to spread his message about drug use, starting with his contacts in the Braselton Police Department.
"The chief (Terry Esco) and I have talked about this," he said. "He sees this stuff every day. We’re working on the same problem together."
Webb plans to speak at Esco’s church in the near future and likes speaking at churches in particular because people feel more comfortable talking about their problems there.
"The churches play a big, big role," Webb said. "More people are likely to go to church and pour out their emotions before they look up my business on the internet and ask for help."
He also travels to schools in Commerce, Cumming and other Georgia cities to talk to both adults and teenagers about how drug use can be prevented, but also how to handle the problem of drug abuse.
For the younger set, Webb focuses on being an outlet for them to talk about drug use and, by using the example of his former employee who went to jail, he discusses how drugs can be detrimental in the long run.
"We have to make an investment with the young people. In so many words, they’re telling us that they’re doing (drugs)," Webb said. "That’s what I’m there for — to help them open up about it."
For parents, the message is a little different. Webb focuses more on the "we’re all in this together" mentality, trying to convince parents that they’re not alone in the struggles with teenage drug abuse.
"Just because you have a kid who has a problem, it doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person," Webb said. "A lot of parents beat themselves up about it, but it’s more often the peer pressure that causes drug abuse. It’s a different generation."
His company sells drug-testing kits to parents, which he encourages them to use to find out for sure that their children are using drugs. The kit also comes with a CD to give adults information about the particulars of drug use and how to maintain an open relationship with kids about drugs.
"There’s also a contract they can print out between the parent and the youth about drug use. I wanted to make it educational and fun," he said.