Erasing the Past with Free Tattoo Removal - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/1/03

Erasing the Past with Free Tattoo Removal

It's a program called the Tattoo Removal Project of Lubbock. It started about three years ago and already the program has helped dozens of ex-gang members change their lives for the better.

Juan Salas is trying to erase part of his past.

"I joined a program for tattoo removal, and actually, this is my fifth time coming in for treatment," says Salas.

He and others like him have different reasons for removing their tattoos.

"Actually, it's causing me a lot of problems, and it's a bad example for my kids," says Salas.

After 18 years, Juan's decided it's time for his past life as a Chicago gang member to go.

"You're young and you make bad decisions and the time passes by and you realize and regret it," he says, but enduring painful cortisone injections and second degree burns is a small price to pay to bury years of wrong decisions.

"If I remove this tattoo, no one will ask what it represents or what I use to have there," says Salas.

Now, he won't have to explain painful memories to anyone else. What he will tell others about tattoos is to be responsible for what you get.

"In the long run, it can cause some problems, you know like those tribal tattoos, everything's got a meaning," says Salas.

That advice came a little too late for 14 year-old Prescilla, "July 13, 2001."

It's a day she will always regret, when she had her name tattooed on her ankle.

"I thought I was grown up at the time," she says.

But at just 12 years-old, Prescilla says back then she made a selfish decision that's costing her.

"I didn't care about anybody at that age, my mom, I just cared about myself. I'm gonna do it and ain't nobody gonna stop me," she says.

Both Juan and Prescilla each have scars from tattoo removal, but they say it's changed their lives.

"I've stopped doing drugs. I've been clean for nine months," says Prescilla.

"I mean period, I would not tell anybody to get a tattoo," says Salas.

The Tattoo Removal Program is part of the Managed Care Center for Addictive and Other Disorders. If you would like more information on tattoo removal, you can call them at (806) 780-8300.

Tattoo removal is free to participants under 19 years of age, but there is a small fee for adults.

Prescilla and Juan are just two examples of how this program has already changed dozens of lives.

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