Building Sustainable Community Approaches

On Tuesday, September 27th Youth Health Connection, in conjunction with both the Plymouth County District Attorney and the Norfolk County District Attorney, hosted a full day conference addressing Underage Substance Use and launched South Shore FACTS:  Families, Adolescents and Communities Together Against Substances.  FACTS will serve as a one year pilot project targeting the communities of Hingham, Hull, Cohasset, Scituate and Norwell.

Our goal is for YHC to serve as the facilitator of the development of a regional coalition comprised of the five towns who share borders and to assist them in the development of individual town based coalitions.  The objective is to encourage sustainable, community based initiatives utilizing positive shared messaging through social norms campaigns, to provide educational opportunities for youth, parents, and all other relevant community members, and to consider the development of healthy alternative recreational activities for teens.

While we know that many youth do drink alcohol and use illicit drugs, the data does clearly represent that the majority do not.  We know that if we can delay the onset of first use we can also help to better protect the developing adolescent brain.  Underage alcohol use is a community problem that requires community solutions.

Dr. William DeJong, Professor of Public Health, Boston University, and lead developer of “”, an online computer based educational program for teens and parents,  said the real issue is to “prevent lost potential. “ Substance use for teens is a major contributor to risk factors and behavior including depression, violence, motor vehicle accidents, academic disruption among other issues.  Dr. DeJong suggested we consider community based approaches as similar to vaccination.  Julie Nussbaum, Director of Prevention, Students Against Destructive Decisions presented the program ‘Mobilizing the Community”, which incorporates social norms, messaging and the development of a broad based community policy task force.

Those in attendance including, school based professionals, law enforcement, clergy, parents, and perhaps most importantly, teens themselves, left deeply committed to maintaining the momentum to create cultural change and to debunk the myth that all teens drink and that it is a rite of passage.  Dr. Marisa Silveri , McLean Hospital, frequently says,” Let youth be the only impairment our teens need to face.

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